The law places a limit upon the extent to which the defendant is liable for the loss which occurs from his breach of a duty of care to the plaintiff, once it is established that the loss sustained by the plaintiff is one recoverable in negligence. The test of remoteness of damage limits this liability by defining certain types of damage or losses as being irrecoverable as a matter of law. The test is carried out to protect the defendant in breach of their obligations from unusual or unexpected claims.
The test for remoteness was for some time considered to be that laid down in Re Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd where it was held that all harm suffered as a direct result of a breach of duty was recoverable, which meant that as long as some damage to the plaintiff is foreseeable, the defendant is liable for all the damage that results directly from the negligence and even applies to a plaintiff who was not within the reasonable foresight of the defendant. However due to the conflict between this proposition and the neighbour principle laid down in Donohue v Stevenson and the general reluctance of the courts to make the defendants liability limitless, this proposition was soon rejected.
The current test of remoteness used by the courts was developed in the case, Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound) No 1. In this case, Lord Simons said that it was the foresight of the reasonable man which alone can determine responsibility. However there does not appear to be any definition of what exactly constitutes reasonable foresight.
Since The Wagon Mound No 1 the courts have frequently reiterated that the defendant may be liable even though he could not envisage that precise set of circumstances which produced harm of the foreseeable kind and this was shown in a broad view in Hughes v Lord Advocate in which the defendants were held liable on the grounds that as long injury by burning was foreseeable, the method by which the burning occurred did not matter and that the type rather than the extent of damage must be foreseen Bradford v Robinson Rentals , Margereson v J W Roberts Ltd ,Hancock v JW Roberts and Vacwell Engineering Co Ltd v B D H Chemicals Ltd .
The courts however have interpreted The Wagon Mound test somewhat broadly when dealing with foreseeability to personnel injury Page v Smith except in the cases of Doughty vs Turner Manufacturing and Tremain vs Pike and Jolley vs Sutton Borough Council where a narrow view was taken by the courts, where the courts ruled that the remoteness test was not satisfied.
One area not covered by The Wagon Mound No 1 test is the position if the type of injury is foreseeable but the extent of that injury is not because the claimant has a special condition, Smith v Leech Brain & Co Ltd, Robinson v Post Office & Paris v Stepney B.C . This is covered by the ‘egg-shell skull’ rule which basically means that you take your victims as you find them and so if the claimant suffers a particular disability or has a particular condition they can recover in full from the defendant for their loss. This rule therefore extends the rule of remoteness as stated in The Wagon Mound No 1.
Reasonable foreseeability is always a necessary ingredient of a negligence action as it is required to establish a duty of care and The Wagon Mound test is now established as the remoteness test for negligence. However I would not agree that it is the sole test of remoteness in the tort of negligence. As described earlier, if this was so then the ‘egg-shell skull’ would not apply. Although from reading The Wagon Mound it would seem that in negligence, foreseeability is the only criterion for remoteness of damage, but it may be that foreseeability is not the complete story, for other often unexpressed factors may be relevant, therefore foreseeability as a test of remoteness is qualified by the fact that either the precise extent of the damage nor the precise manner of its infliction need be foreseeable.
The test for remoteness of foreseeability is also affected by policy-based rules which are used to limit responsibility such as “scope of risk” test Roe v Minister of Health and protected claimants such as unborn children, protected under Section 1 of the Congenital Disabilities (Civil Liability) 1976.
Show MoreRemoteness of Damages in Torts
Before we begin looking into the depth of the topic, let us start with a few definitions to draw out the basic structure of what all will we cover.
1) Tort – A tort is a civil wrong that causes unlawful harm to a person, giving them legal liability to sue the wrongdoer, or the ‘tortfeasor’.
2) Damages in Tort – These are the different forms of compensation usually given to a victim for injury or harm caused.
3) Remoteness – In Tort law, it is the set of rules that limits the amount of compensatory damage given, for any wrong.
Following the above definitions, it is easy to deduce the broad idea of what the title is all about.
Remoteness of damages in torts is a concept that deals with the rules…show more content…
Engine fire from a passing train set sparks to this dried grass which quickly spread and as a result of which, set the plaintiff’s house on fire.
The judgement was in favour of the plaintiff as it was held that even though the extent to which the fire caused damage was unforeseeable, the fact that fire could cause damage was definitely foreseeable. Hence, the Company was held liable for negligence.
Re Polemis  3 KB 560
The Re Polemis case was one of the leading cases that laid down the idea of ‘directness of consequence’ as a test for determining the remoteness in the case of a tort.
In this case, the defendant had paid the plaintiff and had chartered a ship belonging to the plaintiff. The cargo of the ship was storing containers of petrol that so happened to leak during the sailing of the ship. During unloading, the workers dropped a heavy plank by mistake that struck the side of the ship and ignited a spark which caused a massive fire, thus ending up destroying the plaintiff’s ship.
Notable Issues in the Case
One essential element of this case was that it could not have been reasonably foreseen that the mere dropping of a plank could have caused a massive fire. However, it was held by the Court of