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Stone v. Bolton

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Stone v. Bolton
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    Brief Fact Summary. Stone (Plaintiff) was struck in the head by cricket ball from Defendant’s cricket club. Plaintiff sued Defendant for public nuisance and negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Plaintiff’s injury was caused by a reasonably foreseeable risk and Defendant is liable for damages since he had a duty to take reasonable measures to prevent it.

    Facts. Plaintiff lived on a side street next to a cricket ground. She was at the gate in front of the house when she was struck on the head by a cricket ball. The ball that hit Plaintiff was one of the longest balls that had ever been hit at the grounds during the last forty years. The cricket ground was large enough for all practical purposes. The field was surrounded by twelve-foot high fence. Witnesses testified that over a thirty-year period about six to ten balls had been hit onto Plaintiff’s side street. Plaintiff sued the home cricket club and all of its members (Defendants). She alleged that the grounds constituted a public nuisance. She separately alleged common law negligence. The trial court gave judgment to the Defendants on both the public nuisance and negligence counts. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the negligence claim. Defendant then appealed to the House of Lords.

    Issue. If a risk is reasonably foreseeable, is there a duty to prevent it?

    Held. Yes. Judgment for Defendant.
    * Plaintiff’s injury was a reasonable, foreseeable risk. Although, only on very rare occasions, perhaps no more then six times in thirty seasons, cricket balls had been hit onto Plaintiff’s Side Street. What had happened several times before could reasonably be expected to happen again sooner or later.
    * It is irrelevant that no possible precaution would have arrested the flight of the cricket ball that hit Plaintiff. If cricket cannot be played on a given ground without foreseeable risks, then, it is always possible to stop using the grounds for cricket. The court failed to see on what principle Plaintiff is entitled to be required to accept the risk of Defendants cricket club.

    Discussion. In this case, the court did not want to force Plaintiff to bare the burden of an unlikely but foreseeable risk of injury. The court held Defendant liable on the basis of forseeability.


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