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Vaughan v. Menlove

Citation. 132 Eng. Rep. 490 (C.P. 1837)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The defendant’s hay caught fire and burned the plaintiff’s property despite the plaintiff warning him several times that the hay was a fire hazard.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The substantive standard for negligence is how a reasonably prudent person would have acted under similar circumstances.


Defendant owned property abutting the plaintiffs cottages.  The plaintiff warned him several times that the haystacks were a fire hazard and that he should remove them.  He did not.  The hay eventually caught fire and burned the plaintiffs cottages, upon which plaintiff sued for negligence.


Was the defendant negligent in not removing his hay and mitigating the fire hazard?


Yes, a reasonably prudent person would have exercised the care of mitigating the fire hazard posed by the hay.


Justice Vaughan, J

The defendant was negligent in his action when he declined to take action after being warned of the fire hazard that the hay posed.


The court reasons that the liability for negligence cannot be coextensive with ones own judgement, but rather must be an objective consideration of an ordinarily prudent man similarly situated.  The court found that a reasonably prudent person would have taken heed of the warnings and removed the hay, and consequently found the defendant negligent.

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