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Jolley v. Sutton London Borough Council

    Brief Fact Summary.

    A boat and trailer were abandoned on grounds occupied by Defendant. Later, Defendant put a sticker on the boat that notified the public not to touch it, it was dangerous, and the boat would be removed within seven days. Years passed and the boat remained on the same location, Plaintiff began to fix the boat to keep for himself. While fixing the boat, the boat fell on top of him, causing him to break his back ad become paraplegic. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant. The trial court found for Plaintiff, but deducted Defendant’s damages by 25 percent, due to Plaintiff’s contributory negligence. The appellate court reversed. Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant may be liable for negligence when the nature of the risk and the type of injury that resulted from the defendant’s actions were reasonable foreseeable, even if the exact manner or the extent of the injury was not reasonably foreseeable.

    Facts.

    In 1987, a boat and trailer were abandoned on the grounds that were occupied by the Council for the London Borough of Sutton, Defendant. Both the boat and trailer were left open in an area where children would play in. The boat and the trailer rotted and deteriorated. In December 1988, Defendant placed a sticker on the boat thatprovided notice to the public that the boat was dangerous, should not be touched, and would be removed from the premises within seven days. Nonetheless, the boat and trailer were not removed. Justin Jolley, Plaintiff, and Karl Warnhamsaw the boat in the summer of 1989. Later, in February 1990, Plaintiff and Warnham chose to repair and paint the boat so that they could use it for themselves.At that time, Plaintiff was 14. Using tools, Plaintiff and Warnhampicked the boat up so they could work underneath it. For a few months, Plaintiff and Warnhamtried to fix holes in the hull. Thereafter, on April 8, 1990, Jolley, while working underneath the boat, the boat fell on him, causing him to break his back, which cause him to be paraplegic. The boat did not fall due to its condition, but because the boat fell from the tools that Plaintiff and Warnharm had used to pick it up. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, and the judge found in Plaintiff’s favor, but reduced his damages by 25 percent for contributory negligence. On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed on the grounds that it was only foreseeable that the derelict condition of the boat would cause minor injury to children playing on it. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant may be liable for negligence when the nature of the risk and the type of injury that resulted from the defendant’s actions were reasonable foreseeable, even if the exact manner or the extent of the injury was not reasonably foreseeable.

    Held.

    Yes,a defendant may be liable for negligence when the nature of the risk and the type of injury that resulted from the defendant’s actions were reasonable foreseeable, even if the exact manner or the extent of the injury was not reasonably foreseeable

    Concurrence.

    The scope of a reasonably foreseeable injury is not solely limited to a particular type of injury, but to a type of injury that is relative to the nature of the risk. The trial judge properly defined the scope of foreseeability by alluding to the fact that there was a risk that children would meddle with the boat and be harmed. 

    Discussion.

    The trial judge properly concluded that Plaintiff’s injury was reasonably foreseeable. Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957, the occupier of a property, Defendant, is required to keep the property reasonably safe for visitors. Also, occupiers, Defendant, should expect that children would act with less caution than adults. An occupier has a duty to remove these forms of objects when they pose such a danger. In this case, it was reasonably foreseeable to the Defendant that both younger and older children would play on the boat, as Plaintiff and his friend did in this case did. The mere fact that the precise manner in which the accident happened or the extent of Plaintiff’s injuries may not have been foreseeable does not relieve Defendant from his liability. Therefore, the trial judge’s decision must be restored and the matter remitted to the Court of Appeal for consideration of damages.


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