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Facts[]

Overseas Tankship were charterers of a freighter ship named the Wagon Mound which was moored at a dock. Miller owned two ships that were moored nearby. At some point during this period the Wagon Mound leaked furnace oil into the harbour while some welders were working on a ship. The sparks from the welders caused the leaked oil to ignite destroying all three ships. Miller sued seeking damages.

Issue[]

  1. Should the defendant be liable for damages which were not foreseeable?

Decision[]

Appeal dismissed.

Reasons[]

Lord Reid, in discussing the concept of negligence, says that there are two kinds of negligence cases:

  1. those where the risk of the result should not be regarded because it was thought to be impossible or too far-fetched to reasonably pay attention to; and
  2. those where there was a real and substantial risk.

He states that the occurrence in Bolton v Stone does not fall under the first classification, as it was foreseeable. He says that a reasonable man would only neglect such a risk if he had a valid reason for doing so – the costs, for example. He says that the Bolton decision found that it is justifiable not to take steps to eliminate a real risk if the risk of it is so very small that a reasonable person would think it right to neglect it.

Ratio[]

There are two kinds of negligence cases:

  1. those where the risk was thought to be so remote as not to pay attention to; and
  2. those where the risk was real and substantial.
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