Category Archives: Torts

Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v The Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound No 2) [1966] UKPC 1 | 25 May 1996

ON 25 MAY 1966, the Privy Council delivered Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v The Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound No 2) [1966] UKPC 1 (25 May 1966).

Negligence – reasonably forseeable

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKPC/1966/1.html

A person is negligent if they fail to prevent a real risk that is reasonably foreseeable. A real risk is one in the mind of a reasonable person “which he would not brush aside as far-fetched”. This does not depend on the actual risk of occurrence.

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Negligence – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Work injury

ON THIS DAY in 1986, the High Court of Australia delivered Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20; (1986) 160 CLR 301 (13 May 1986).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1986/20.html

“Negligence – Master and servant – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Employer’s duty to provide – Scope of duty – Contributory negligence.”

Braistina was a metal trades worker employed by Bankstown Foundry. As part of his duties he drilled holes in cast iron pipes weighing about 60 pounds. He was required to lift about 40 pipes an hour from a pallet onto a drilling machine and then onto another pallet after the drilling.

On a particular shift, Braistina injured his neck after drilling about 115 pipes over a three hour period. Medical evidence showed that the lifting and twisting made the risk of injury foreseeable and not far fetched and fanciful.

A hoist was readily available but not used. The use of the hoist was not impracticable, caused no undue expense or nor any difficulty. Had the hoist been used the risk of injury would have been eliminated.

The court held that in the circumstances, a prudent employer would reasonably require that the hoist be used.

An employer must take reasonable steps to enforce a safe system of work, otherwise they are in breach of their duty of care to the employee and will be found negligent and liable for the injury, loss and damage suffered by the employee.

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Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20 | 13 May 1986

ON THIS DAY in 1986, the High Court of Australia delivered Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20; (1986) 160 CLR 301 (13 May 1986).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1986/20.html

“Negligence – Master and servant – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Employer’s duty to provide – Scope of duty – Contributory negligence.”

Braistina was a metal trades worker employed by Bankstown Foundry. As part of his duties he drilled holes in cast iron pipes weighing about 60 pounds. He was required to lift about 40 pipes an hour from a pallet onto a drilling machine and then onto another pallet after the drilling.

On a particular shift, Braistina injured his neck after drilling about 115 pipes over a three hour period. Medical evidence showed that the lifting and twisting made the risk of injury foreseeable and not far fetched and fanciful.

A hoist was readily available but not used. The use of the hoist was not impracticable, caused no undue expense or nor any difficulty. Had the hoist been used the risk of injury would have been eliminated.

The court held that in the circumstances, a prudent employer would reasonably require that the hoist be used.

An employer must take reasonable steps to enforce a safe system of work, otherwise they are in breach of their duty of care to the employee and will be found negligent and liable for the injury, loss and damage suffered by the employee.

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Negligence – Duty of care – Breach of duty – Foreseeability of risk of injury – Likelihood of harm occurring – Personal injury

Wyong Shire Council v Shirt [1980] HCA 12; (1980) 146 CLR 40 (1 May 1980).

“Negligence – Duty of care – Breach of duty – Foreseeability of risk of injury – Likelihood of harm occurring – Erection of sign “deep water” in vicinity of shallow water – Whether foreseeable that inexperienced water-skier would fall and suffer injury.”

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1980/12.html

Mason J at p48 expressed the “risk calculus”, that when deciding on a breach of duty of care, the court must not only determine a foreseeable risk but it must also determine a reasonable man’s response by “consideration of the magnitude of the risk and the degree of probability of its occurrence, along with the expense, difficulty and inconvenience of taking alleviating action and any other conflicting responsibilities which the defendant may have”.

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Stuart v Kirkland-Veenstra [2009] HCA 15 | 22 April 2009

Stuart v Kirkland-Veenstra [2009] HCA 15 (22 April 2009).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2009/15.html

“TORTS – Negligence – Duty of care – Where Mental Health Act 1986 (Vic), s 10 empowered police to apprehend person who “appears to be mentally ill” if reasonable grounds for believing that person had recently attempted suicide or likely to do so – Where police came upon man who appeared to have been contemplating suicide but showed no sign of mental illness – Interaction of common law and relationship established by s 10 – Whether duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm to man at own hand – Relevance of conditions engaging exercise of statutory power – Relevance of fact that duty alleged is duty to protect person from self-harm – Relevance of general rule against duty to rescue – Relevance of vulnerability of particular class of persons – Relevance of control over source of risk to persons.

TORTS – Negligence – Duty of care – Where duty alleged to arise in context of power conferred by Mental Health Act 1986, s 10 – Whether preconditions to existence of power established on facts – Whether common law duty could exist in absence of relevant power.

TORTS – Breach of statutory duty – Relevance as alternative to action alleging breach of common law duty of care – Principles relevant to determining legislative intention that cause of action be available – Relevance of legislative provision for special measures to protect identifiable class of persons or property – Whether existence of discretion to exercise power inconsistent with existence of statutory duty.

STATUTES – Interpretation – Whether person who has attempted suicide to be equated with person “mentally ill” – Relationship between attempted suicide and mental illness – Understanding at common law of relationship between suicide and mental illness.

WORDS AND PRRASES – “mentally ill”.

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), ss 457, 463B.
Mental Health Act 1986 (Vic), ss 3, 8, 10.
Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic), Pt III.”

The court decided that two police officers did not owe a duty of care to a man who took his life; nor to his surviving spouse. Earlier in the day of the deceased’s death the officers had observed an apparent suicide attempt by the deceased but were satisfied that he sounded rational and was responsive to their questions.

The law does not create an obligation to rescue another from harm and in this case there were no special features outside of the general rule.

As the police officers had not formed the view that the deceased was mentally ill, they had no power to apprehend him and have him assessed under the Mental Health Act.

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Sydney Lawyers

ON 18 DECEMBER 1906, the High Court of Australia delivered Balmain New Ferry Co Ltd v Robertson [1906] HCA 83; (1906) 4 CLR 379 (18 December 1906).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1906/83.html

A party who wishes to rely on a contractual term is required to show that it did all that was reasonable to bring term to the other party’s attention.

The plaintiff was not considered to have been falsely imprisoned by the ferry terminal’s turnstiles as he was considered to be free to leave the premises by water.

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Sydney Solicitors

ON 18 DECEMBER 1906, the High Court of Australia delivered Balmain New Ferry Co Ltd v Robertson [1906] HCA 83; (1906) 4 CLR 379 (18 December 1906).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1906/83.html

A party who wishes to rely on a contractual term is required to show that it did all that was reasonable to bring term to the other party’s attention.

The plaintiff was not considered to have been falsely imprisoned by the ferry terminal’s turnstiles as he was considered to be free to leave the premises by water.

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Australian Safeway Stores Pty Ltd v Zaluzna [1987] HCA 7 | 10 March 1987

NEGLIGENCE. OCCUPIER’S LIABILITY. INJURY. ON THIS DAY IN 1987, the High Court of Australia delivered Australian Safeway Stores Pty Ltd v Zaluzna [1987] HCA 7; (1987) 162 CLR 479 (10 March 1987).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1987/7.html

An occupier of premises owes a duty of care under the ordinary principles of negligence to take reasonable care for the safety of a person who enters the premises, irrespective of whether they are an invitee, trespasser or licensee.

Per Mason, Wilson, Deane and Dawson JJ at 488:

“We think it is wholly consistent with the trend of recent decisions of this Court touching the law of negligence, both in this area of an occupier’s liability towards entrants on his land and in the areas which were the subject of consideration in San Sebastian Pty. Ltd. v. Minister Administering the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 [1986] HCA 68; (1986) 68 ALR 161 and Cook v. Cook [1986] HCA 73; (1986) 61 ALJR 25; 68 ALR 353, to simplify the operation of the law to accord with the statement of Deane J. in Hackshaw, at pp.662-663:

‘… it is not necessary, in an action in
negligence against an occupier, to go through the
procedure of considering whether either one or
other or both of a special duty qua occupier and an
ordinary duty of care was owed. All that is
necessary is to determine whether, in all the
relevant circumstances including the fact of the
defendant’s occupation of premises and the manner
of the plaintiff’s entry upon them, the defendant
owed a duty of care under the ordinary principles
of negligence to the plaintiff. A prerequisite of
any such duty is that there be the necessary degree
of proximity of relationship. The touchstone of
its existence is that there be reasonable
foreseeability of a real risk of injury to the
visitor or to the class of person of which the
visitor is a member. The measure of the discharge
of the duty is what a reasonable man would, in the
circumstances, do by way of response to the
foreseeable risk.'”

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Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Company Pty Ltd [1986] HCA 1 | 13 February 1986

ON THIS DAY IN 1986, the High Court of Australia delivered Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Company Pty Ltd [1986] HCA 1; (1986) 160 CLR 16 (13 February 1986).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1986/1.html

Per Mason J at 24:

“The first question to determine is whether the relationship between Brodribb and Gray was one of employer and employee or one of principal and independent contractor…A prominent factor in determining the nature of the relationship between a person who engages another to perform work and the person so engaged is the degree of control which the former can exercise over the latter. It has been held, however, that the
importance of control lies not so much in its actual exercise, although clearly that is relevant, as in the right of the employer to exercise it (Zuijs v. Wirth Brothers Pty Ltd [1955] HCA 73; (1955) 93 CLR 561, at p 571;
Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Barrett [1973] HCA 49; (1973) 129 CLR 395, at p 402; Humberstone v. Northern Timber Mills [1949] HCA 49; (1949) 79 CLR 389). In the last-mentioned case Dixon J. said (at p 404):

“The question is not whether in practice the work was in fact done subject to a direction and control exercised by an actual supervision or whether an actual supervision was possible but whether ultimate authority over the man in the performance of his work resided in the employer so that he was subject to the latter’s order and directions.”

But the existence of control, whilst significant, is not the sole criterion by which to gauge whether a relationship is one of employment. The approach of this Court has been to regard it merely as one of
a number of indicia which must be considered in the determination of that question (Queensland Stations Pty Ltd v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation [1945] HCA 13; (1945) 70 CLR 539, at p 552; Zuijs’ Case;
Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Barrett, at p 401; Marshall v. Whittaker’s Building Supply Co. [1963] HCA 26; (1963) 109 CLR 210, at p 218). Other relevant matters include, but are not limited to, the mode of
remuneration, the provision and maintenance of equipment, the obligation to work, the hours of work and provision for holidays, the deduction of income tax and the delegation of work by the putative employee.”

Per Wilson and Dawson JJ at 35:

“The classic test for determining whether the relationship of master and servant exists has been one of control, the answer depending upon whether the engagement subjects the person engaged to the command of the person engaging him, not only as to what he shall do in the course of his employment but as to how he shall do it: Performing Right Society, Ld. v. Mitchell and Booker (Palais de Danse), Ld. (1924) 1 KB 762. The modern approach is, however, to have regard to a variety of criteria. This approach is not without its difficulties because not all of the accepted criteria provide a relevant test in all circumstances and none is conclusive. Moreover, the relationship itself remains largely undefined as a legal concept except in terms of the various criteria, the relevance of which may vary according to the circumstances.”

Per Brennan J:

“The entrepreneur’s duty arises simply because he is creating the risk (Sutherland Shire Council v. Heyman [1985] HCA 41; (1985) 59 ALJR 564, at p 587; [1985] HCA 41; 60 ALR 1, at p 42) and his duty is more limited than the duty owed by an employer to an employee. The duty to use reasonable care in organizing an activity does not import a duty to avoid any risk of injury; it imports a duty to use reasonable care to avoid unnecessary risks of injury and to minimize other risks of injury. It does not import a duty to retain control of working systems if it is reasonable to engage the services of independent contractors who are competent themselves to control their system of work without supervision by the entrepreneur. The circumstances may make it necessary for the entrepreneur to retain and exercise a supervisory power or to prescribe the respective areas of responsibility of independent contractors if confusion about those areas involves a risk of injury. But once the activity has been organized and its operation is in the hands of independent contractors, liability for negligence by them within the area of their responsibility is not borne vicariously by the entrepreneur. If there is no failure to take reasonable care in the employment of independent contractors competent to control their own systems of work, or in not retaining a supervisory power or in leaving undefined the contractors’ respective areas of responsibility, the entrepreneur is not liable for damage caused merely by a negligent failure of an independent contractor to adopt or follow a safe system of work either within his area of responsibility or in an area of shared responsibility.”

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Pyrenees Shire Council v Day [1998] HCA 3 | 23 January 1998

ON 23 January 1998, the High Court of Australia delivered Pyrenees Shire Council v Day [1998] HCA 3; 192 CLR 330; 151 ALR 147; 72 ALJR 152 (23 January 1998).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1998/3.html

The High Court rejected the “doctrine of general reliance” of Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman (1985) 157 CLR 424 (1985) 157 CLR 424.

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