Friday, November 16, 2012

Overseas Tankship v. Morts Dock (Wagon Mound) case brief

Overseas Tankship v. Morts Dock (Wagon Mound) case summary

-Morts (the plaintiff) was refitting a ship at a wharf, and a ship owned by Overseas (D) was taking on oil at a wharf that was near by.
-Some of the oil spilled, concentrated at P’s wharf.
-P stopped welding activities and assessed the danger. He talked to others and based on this and his own understanding of furnace oil, he thought that it was safe to resume work with necessary precautions.
-Two days later the oil lit on fire and damaged P’s equipment and the wharf.

-The trial judge found that the P could not have reasonable known that this oil would ignite when spread on water.
-The evidence established that there was a piece of cotton supported by some debris that was laying underneath the wharf and this lit when molten metal from the wharf came into contact with it.
-Plaintiff’s appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of South Wales. 

-Is a negligent defendant responsible for all the consequences of his actions whether reasonably foreseeable or not?

No, a negligent defendant is NOT responsible for ALL of the consequences of his actions (those that are not foreseeable).

-A defendant is only liable for the consequences of his actions that are reasonably foreseeable at the time that he acts.


-Polemis is no longer good law (it held that a defendant was responsible for actions that were unforeseeable consequences of his negligence).
-It is a principle of civil liability that a defendant’s liability should be limited to those acts that are natural and probable consequences of his act
-What are natural and probable consequences of the act? Those acts that are foreseeable.
-To follow Polemis and make the test hinge on a determination of what causes are direct would be to invite the never ending problem of causation.
-Therefore, the question should be: was the damage caused by something that a reasonable man should have foreseen?

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