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Torts Important Case Laws

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Ashby Vs White

In this case, the plaintiff was a valid voter at a Parliamentary election. The defendant, the Returning Officer at a voting booth, wrongfully disallowed the plaintiff from exercising his franchise. Now, there was no loss, monetary or otherwise, suffered by the plaintiff. Even the candidate for whom, he wanted to vote, won the elections. Nevertheless, the plaintiff succeeded in his action against the defendant, for the simple reason that the Plaintiff’s legal right was violated.

Bhim Singh Vs State of J & K

In this case an M.L.A. of the J.K. Assembly, the plaintiff was wrongfully arrested & detained by the police, while he was proceeding to the Assembly. Further, he was not produced before the Magistrate within the stipulated period. This act was a violation of both his fundamental and legal right. Finally, it was held that the State was liable and was compelled to pay damages to Mr. Bhim Singh.

Gloucester Grammar School

In this case, the defendant, a school teacher set up a rival school in the same locality. As he charged low fees, students dropped out of plaintiff’s school and joined the defendant school; defendant had intended to cause wrongful loss to him. It was held that the plaintiff had no remedy, as there was no legal wrong committed by the defendant. Thus, in this case, you see that there is monetary loss to the plaintiff, but there has been no violation of his legal right. Hence, there is no case of tort.

Smith V. Charles Baker & Sons.

Smith was employed with Charles Bakers. One day smith was working on a drilling machine and on the top of which a crane often jibbed. It was a normal practice that the stones were jibbed over his head. One day a stone from the crane fell down and injured smith. House of Lords held that smith had knowledge but not consented to undertake the risk of being hurt, there was negligence on the part of Charles baker & sons i.e. Respondent and respondents were held liable.

Hall Vs Brooklands Auto Racing Club

The plaintiff was a spectator at a motorcar race. Due to a collision between two racing cars, one of it rammed in to the spectator’s stand and injured the plaintiff. Held the organizers were not liable, as the plaintiff impliedly took the risk of such injury.

Haynes Vs Harwood

In Haynes V. Harwood, the defendant left a horse carriage outside a building, absolutely unattended. Some urchins playing nearby threw stones at the horse. The horse unbridled itself and started running amok. This frightened the passer bys and everybody started running. A police constable, who was on duty in a nearby police station, decided to take charge of the situation and succeeded in stopping the horse. In the process of doing so, he sustained injuries and claimed damages from the defendant. The defendant was held liable and was prevented from setting up the defence of Volenti non-fit injuria.

Bird Vs Holbrook

The defendant had set up spring gun in his garden, with a view to protect the garden. The spring gun injured the plaintiff, a trespasser who came in to the defendant’s land. Held, the defendant could not set up the defense, as he had failed to put up a notice about the spring gun and also, it resulted in excessive harm.

Stanley V. Powell

One of the members of a shooting party accidentally shot at another member, mistaking his movement for that of an animal. It was held that the injury was an accident.

Brown V. Kendall

In a fight between two dogs, one belonging to the plaintiff and the other to the defendant, while trying to separate the dogs, defendant accidentally hit the plaintiff, who was standing close by, in his eye. Held the defendant was not liable as the injury to the plaintiff was the result of an accident

Nichols V. Marsland

The defendant was owner of an estate containing lakes of ornamental water fed by natural stream passing through the estate. A very heavy rainfall caused the lakes to over flow their banks, floods the rivers and carry away four bridges. The plaintiff claimed compensation for the loss. The court decided that over flow of lake was due to Act of God (Vis Major).

Scott Vs. Shepherd

‘A’ threw a lighted firecracker aimlessly in a crowded market place. It was about to land on a sweet stall. The owner of the shop, acting in self-defence quickly picked it and threw it. It fell on the plaintiff. Held that the sweet stall owner had acted in private defence and hence not liable.

State Bank of India Vs Shyama Devi

The respondent, Mrs. Shyama Devi, opened a Savings Bank Account with plaintiff’s predecessor (Imperial Bank of India) at its Allahabad Branch. The respondents gave some cash and a cheque to one Kapil Dew Shukla, who was a friend of the respondent’s husband and employed in the said bank, for being deposited in her account. The said payments were made to Kapil Dew Shukla in his capacity as the respondent’s husband’s friend. No receipt or voucher was obtained indicating the said deposit. The Bank’s servant, instead of making the deposits in the respondent’s account, got the cheque cashed and misappropriated the amount. He, however, made false entries in the respondent’s Pass Book and Bank’s ledgers. It was held by the Supreme Court that the servant had acted outside the course of employment and appellant bank could not be made liable for the fraud committed by its servant.

Lioyd Vs Grace Smith & Co

Ms. Lloyds approached M/s. Grace Smith and Co. to seek investment related advice. The clerk who attended upon her asked her to sell her properties and then re-invest the proceeds. Ms. Lloyd signed certain documents, which were supposed to be sale deed. Actually, it turned out to be gift deed in favour of the clerk. The clerk disposed the property and misappropriated the funds. It was held that the company was liable for the fraudulent acts of the clerk.

Morris Vs CW. Martin & Sons Ltd.

The defendant was running a dry cleaning services. A fur coat entrusted to him for dry cleaning was stolen by one of the servants of the company. Held, the defendant was liable for the theft of the servant.

Bayley Vs Manchester, Sheffield.

A railway company appointed porters to assist passengers to board the right trains. One passenger had got into the right train, The porter pulled him out and put him in another train. Held, the railway company was liable for the mistake of the servant.

Century Insurance Co Vs Northern Ireland Road Transport Board

‘A’, a driver of a petrol tanker, was B’s servant. While transferring petrol from a lorry to an underground tank, he struck a match to light a cigarette and carelessly threw it on the floor. This resulted in a fire and damaged the petrol bank. Held that master was liable for the servant’s negligent manner of doing his work.

Ricketts Vs Thomas Tilling Ltd

The driver of a bus asked the conductor to drive the bus. The conductor drove the bus negligently and knocked down a pedestrian. Here, the master was liable for the negligent delegation of work by the driver.

Beard Vs London General Omnibus Co.

The driver of a bus had gone to have his dinner, leaving the bus in the custody of the conductor who decided to turn the bus to keep it in readiness for the return journey. While doing so, he negligently knocked down a passer by. Held, the master was not liable, as the conductor acted outside the course of his employment.

Twine Vs Beans Express Ltd.

‘A’ provided a van for the use of a bank. He put up two notices on the van, which read that no unauthorized person is allowed to take a lift in the van. Also, that the driver had been expressly told not to give lift to outsiders. The driver nevertheless gave lift to an unauthorized person, who died in an accident caused by the driver’s negligence. Held that A was not liable, for the act of giving lift was outside the scope of employment. The court held that giving lift to an unauthorized person was not merely a wrongful mode of performing an act, but is a performance of an act of a category, for which the driver is not employed to perform at all.

Sitaram Vs Shantanu Prasad

Sitaram the owner of a car had entrusted it to one Mohammad Yakub for plying it as taxi. The said driver appointed a cleaner. One day, the driver allowed the cleaner to use Sitaram’s car for the purpose of taking a driving test. While taking the test, the cleaner injured a spectator. It was held that the owner was not liable for he had not authorised the driver to employ strangers. Secondly, the cleaner at the time of the accident was not doing the master’s work. Thus the negligence of the servant took place outside the scope of employment.

Limpus Vs London General Omnibus

The owner of a bus had given express instructions not to overtake or race with other vehicles. The bus driver defying the instructions, overtook another bus, and in the process caused an accident. However the bus owner was held liable for the negligence of the driver. The driver’s negligence indeed took place within the scope of employment.

Tarry Vs Ashton

A person got a lamp fixed on the outside of his house through on independent contractor. The lamp, which was negligently fixed, was over hanging on the footway adjoining the person’s house. It fell down and injured a passerby. It was held that the person who got the lamp fixed was liable for he has a duty to see that the job was properly done.

Rylands Vs Fletcher

The owner of a mill, employed a contractor to construct a reservoir on his land to provide water to his mill. While digging, the contractor failed to notice some disused shafts beneath the ground and as such, did not block them up. Thereafter, he filled the reservoir with water. That night, the water broke through some of the shafts and flooded the neighbour, Y’s mine. The court held that X was liable for the damage caused to Y, even though the damage could not be attributed to his negligence.

Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Secretary of State for India, 1868

A servant of PI of Co. was proceeding on a highway in Calcutta driving a carriage that was drawn by pair of horses belonging to the plaintiff. Defendants were carrying a piece of iron tunnel and the manner in which it was carried caused injury to one of the horse and accident took place. The accident took place because of negligence of servants employed by the government. The plaintiff Co. claimed damages against the secretary of state for India.

The S.C. of Kolkata held that the secretary of state in council of India would be liable for the damages occasion act by the negligence of servants in the service of govt. if the Negligence as would render on ordinary employer liable.

State of Rajasthan V. Vidhyawati AIR 1962, SC 933

The concept of state in constitution is of welfare state the tension acts of govt. servants will not exclude them from my liability arising thereby. In this case, a govt. vehicle which was driven rashly negligently by the car driver a govt. employee; knocked down the PIf’s husband. In an action against the state of Rajasthan, the S.C. held state liable.

Kasturilal Vs State of U.P.

One of the partners of a firm of jewelers had gone to Meerut, to sell gold and silver. While walking through the market with his goods, he was intercepted and arrested by the police on grounds of suspicion that he was in possession of stolen goods. He was kept in the police lock up and his goods were kept in the police custody. In the meanwhile, Kasturilal was released but the goods could not be returned, as the Head Constable had run away with them. In a suit brought against the State of U.P. for damages, it was held that the State was not liable, for the loss had occurred while the Government was discharging a sovereign function (police function).

Ponting V. Noakes

The plaintiff horse reached over the defendants boundary and

nipped some poisonous trees and died. It was held that the defendant was not liable, for the damage was due to horse’s own intrusion.

N. Natayanan Bhattathiripad V. Travancore Gov.

It was held by the court that as the plaintiff had agreed to the construction of the dam, he cannot later on turn around and lodge complaints that the presence of the dam has a source of injury to his property.

Carstairs V. Tylor

The defendant, who was the landlord of the plaintiff and lived in the upper storey, maintained a water box for the benefit of both. One day it leaked without the negligence of the defendant and damaged the plaintiff’s goods. It was held that since the water was used by Plaintiff and defendant. The defendant would not be liable.

Richard V. Lothian

A stranger deliberately blocked up to waste pipe of a lavatory in the defendants premises, thereby flooding the plaintiff premises. It was held that Defendant is not liable.

On 1st January, 1987 an important development took place in India when Justice Bhagwati in the case of M.C. Mehta v. UOI, revolutionized the law laid down is strict liability. He did not follow the principal laid down in Reylands V. Fletcher on the grounds that those principles are not in keeping with the present day jurisprudential thinking.
Facts:- There was escape of Oleum gas from one of the units of Shriram Shriram Food and Fertilisers Ltd. on 4th & 6th December 1985, the Delhi legal aid & advice boards D.B.A. filed applications for a ward of compensation to the persons who had suffered harm on account of escape of oleum gas.

Stephens V. Myers

The plaintiff was the chairman of a parish meeting and on majority decided that defendant should be turned out upon this defendant said he would rather pull the chairman out of the chair than turned out of the room. Immediately he advanced fist clinched towards the plaintiff but was stopped. Defendant was held liable for assault.

Blake V. Barnard  

Pointing a loaded pistol or gun at a person will fall under assault.
A person can be liable even if he points unloaded pistol towards “B” as ‘B’ may not know that the pistol is unloaded.

Pratap Daj V. B.B. & C.L. Rly.

The Plaintiff forgot to purchase the ticket and was forced to get down from the train the force used by the officials was lawfully justified hence no liability.

P Kader V. K.A Algarswami

Putting handcuffs to an under trail prisoner and chaining him like a dangerous animal with a neighboring window in a hospital is battery and the wrongdoer is liable.

Gauri Prasad V. Chartered Bank AIR 1925 Cal 1884

Plaintiff was arrested and was detained for an hour at police station Court held that plaintiff is innocent and had committed no offence. It was held by the court that detention was unjustified and therefore defendant liable.
Partial Restraint
We know that false imprisonment means total restraint on the liberty of person and without lawful justification but where the – restraint is partial it does not amount to total restraint.

Bird V. Jones (1845) 7 QB 742 

The defendant wrongfully enclosed part the public foot-way on a bridge, to view the boat race. The plaintiff insisted on passing along this part of the footpath and climbed over the fence. The defendant refused to let him go forward but told him that he might go back into the carriage way and cross the other side of the bridge if he wished. He refused to do so and remained there for 35 minutes. It was held that defendant is not liable.

Rudal Shah V. State of Bihar AIR 1983 SC 1086

A person was acquitted by the court in 1968 but was released from the Jail after 14 years in 1982, court granted rupees 35,000 as Interim Relief.

Bhim Singh V. J & K AIR 1986 SC 494 S.C. 

Considered it as malicious prosecution and granted exemplary damage to rupees 50,000.

Surendra Shetty V. Sanjiva Rao AIR 1982, Karnataka 84

It has been held that when the Driver is in School zone, there is greater responsibility on the driver to see that the speed of his vehicle is so controlled as to be also to stop it in moment’s notice.

Shivkar V. Ramnaresh AIR 1978 Guj 115

Headmaster of school permitted 60 boys along with two teachers to go for Picnic to a spot on the bank of river Sabarmati. The boys were playing and both of the teachers started taking lunch together. The two young boys were found drowning in river, one was rescued by fisherman but other one Jagpal aged 12 years died.
It was held that river water was on amusement as well as a trap, under the circumstances, a greater care was necessary. Teachers should not have taken food together. While one should have taken food and the other should have supervised the young boys. The teachers failed to take due care and were held liable. The school authority was held vicariously liable.

Donoghue V. Stevenson

A man bought a bottle of a ginger beer for his girlfriend manufactured by the defendant. The lady drank the contents of the bottle directly. Later, she poured the remaining contents into a glass. To her utter shock, she noticed that a dead snail popping out of the bottle. She fainted and fell ill, as she had already consumed a portion of the drink. It was held that the manufacturer was liable to the lady for “negligence”.

M.C. of Delhi V. Subhagwanti AIR1966SC

Three person died as a result of collapse of the clock tower situated opposite the town hall in the main bazaar of Chandni Chowk; Delhi belonging to the appellant corporation. Tower was 80 years old and normally have 40-45 years life. It was not maintained by the corporation and no notice was displayed about its poor infrastructure by the municipal corporation.

The mortar was deteriorated to such an extent that it was reduced to powder without any century properties. Towers tells its own story that prima facie, Municipal Corporation was negligent and was held vicariously liable.
For example: – Tree falling on the road side
– Gate of railway crossing is open.
– Leakage of electricity.
– Trenches dug by the side of the road.

Byrne V. Boadle.

The plaintiff was walking on the footpath of a street. Suddenly, a barrel of flour fell upon him from the upper floor of the defendant’s warehouse. Held that the barrel of flour had fallen only from the building beneath which the plaintiff was walking. The learned judge in this case observed ‘A barrel could not roll out of a warehouse without negligence on the part of those who have control and who should have exercised reasonable care’.

Mata Prasad V. Union of India

There was a manned railway level crossing, whose gates were kept open. The plaintiff, who believed that there was no train in the vicinity, tried crossing the gates. His vehicle collided with a railway engine. It was held that the Railway Board was liable on the basis of maxim “res ipsa loquitor”. The fact that the railway gate was open amply shows the gross negligence of the Railway authorities.

Butterfied Vs. Forrester

The defendant wrongfully put a pole across a highway. The plaintiff, who was riding violently at dusk, did not notice the obstruction and ran into it and was injured. Held, he could not recover damages as he failed to take due care to avoid the accident.

Wagon Mound Case

The Wagon Mound was an oil tanker ship. Due to the negligence of the servants on the ship, oil dripped from the ship. Unfortunately, there was a big tide, which carried the oil to the wharf. In the wharf, some employees were involved in welding operations. The sparks from the welding came in contact with the oil and resulted in fire. Held that the plaintiff was not liable as he could not have reasonably foreseen that the oil could be carried to a far away spot and cause fire.

Manjit Kaur V Deol Buse Service Ltd. AIR 1989 P&H 183

Manjit Kaur, a widow whose husband had been killed in a motor accident filed an appeal for enhanced compensation through her counsel. The case remained on daily list for two weeks and then it was dismissed in default even the application for rehearing the appeal became time barred. Keeping in view the serious ailment of counsel and unconditional apology tendered by him, he was warned to be careful in future and was directed to return the fees he received and to compensate the party for cost of Rs.1000/- awarded against the party for the rehearing of the appeal.

Rural Transport Service V Bezlum BIBI

The conductor of an overcrowded bus invited passenger to travel on roof of bus. The driver ignored the fact that there were passengers on the roof and tried to overtake a cart.

Davies Vs Mann

In this case, the plaintiff tied the forefeet of his donkey and negligently left it on the highway. The defendant subsequently came along that way, driving his wagon and horses at a faster pace than he ought to have done-under the circumstances with the result that the wagon ran over the donkey and killed it. It was held that the defendant was liable, notwithstanding the fact that the accident would not have happened but for the negligence of the plaintiff. In spite of the plaintiff’s negligence, he was held entitled to recover damages because the defendant had “last opportunity” of avoiding the accident.

Radhey shyam vs Gur Prasad

The plaintiff filed a suit for permanent injunction to restrain the defendant from installing and running a flour mill in his premises. Plaintiff was occupier of a floor of the same building and it was held that installation of such flour mill will cause nuisance and hence injunction was granted.

Deepti Chaudhary V Manjulata AIR1997 Raj 170

The plaintiff – Respondent, Manjulata about 17 years of age, and was living with family in Jodhpur. A news was plublished in Dainik Navjyoti that Manjulata had run away with a boy named Kamlesh after she went out of her house on the pretext of attending night classes. The news item was untrue and was published negligently. Her marriage prospects were badly affected.
Held – Court held that defamatory was an actionable per se and general damage of Rs. 10,000/- were awarded.

T.J. Ponnen V. M.C. Verghese

TJ Ponnen wrote letter to his wife Rathi containing some defamatory imputations about his father in law. Mr. M.C. Verghese Mr. Verghese brought on action against T.J. Ponnen. Supreme Court held that letters addressed to the wife can’t be used as evidence as it is a private communication between husband and wife.

Indermaur Vs. Dames

In that case, the plaintiff, who was a gas fitter, entered the defendant’s premises for testing certain gas fittings there. While doing so, he fell from an unfenced opening on the upper floor and was injured. The plaintiff, being an invitee on those premises, the defendant was held liable for the injury caused to him.

Klous Mittlebachert Vs. East India Hotels Ltd.

The plaintiff, a German took a dive in a swimming pool in a five star hotel at New Delhi, there was insufficient water in the swimming pool and the head of the boy was hit against the bottom. Court held that the management authorities are liable for not taking reasonable care of the lawful visitors.

Lowery Vs. Walker

The defendant was an occupier of a field, adjacent to a railway station. Members of the public used his field as a short cut to reach the railway station. Though the defendant objected to it, he took no effective steps to stop the practice. Meanwhile the defendant bought a savage horse and kept it on his land without any notice. One day the horse attacked a trespasser (plaintiff) who was seriously injured. It was held that the plaintiff be cause of the tacit permission from the defendant had now been vested with rights of a licensee. Therefore, the defendant was liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff.

Glasgow Corporation Vs. Taylor

A corporation maintained a public park. A child, who had come to the park, plucked a fruit looking like a berry, from the shrubs. It was poisonous and the child died after consuming it. It was held that the corporation was liable for their negligence in not fencing the shrubs.

Read Vs. Edward

The owner of the dog was held liable for his dog’s act of trespassing and killing pheasants of his neighbor.

Bourhil Vs. Young

The plaintiff a fisher-woman was unloading baskets of fishes from the cart. She saw a motorcyclist go past her, in top speed. A short while, she heard a collision. She went to the accident spot and saw blood spluttered all over. She suffered nervous shock and as she was carrying a child, she delivered a stillborn child. She sued the legal representatives of the deceased motorcyclist. She was not allowed any compensation, as the deceased could not have foreseen the nervous shock suffered by the lady, also he owed no duty of care to her.

Victorian Railway Commissioners Vs. Coults

Applicant servant negligently allowed the plaintiff to drive over a railway level crossing. The cart was saved because of diligence of cart driver but the lady sitting inside who was pregnant lost her children as the escape was so near and the damage was so alarming, she also sustained nervous shock and could not sleep throughout nor remaining life without medicine even then the court held that as there was no physical impact so damage can’t be paid.
But after the case of Duliue’s it was clear that nervous shock is a civil wrong and defendant would be liable considering the situation and remoteness in damages.

Hambrook V. Stockes Brothers

The defendant’s servant negligently left a motor lorry unattended with engine running at the top of a narrow street which contained a steep ending. It (Lorry) went down the street and injured the plaintiff’s daughter. The lady did not witness the accident but saw lorry coming down without the driver by the street the lady told that this monstrous lorry had hit the girl child. She being the mother of girl had a nervous shock and died as a consequence. It was held that driver was negligent and liable for the damage of the mother.

King V. Phillips

The defendant’s taxi (cab) driver was negligently backed into a small boy (on a tricycle) and slightly damaged the tricycle. Mother heard screaming of child and looked out of window saw the tricycle under the cab but could not see her child. She had a nervous shock and as a consequence driver was held liable.

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