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Anns v Merton LBC

[1978] AC 728

Case summary last updated at 18/01/2020 18:43 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Anns v Merton LBC

Ps were letters of flats over which R had rights and duties of owner. Cracks appeared in the walls and Ps sued R for negligence, after R failed to carry out any inspection of the building. HL held that P could sue R for negligence: R was under a duty to consider whether an inspection was needed; that this duty required “reasonable care” to be taken. Test for duty of care: (1) is there proximity (reasonable foreseeability/neighbourhood)? if so, (2) is there any reason not to apply the duty here?
Lord Wilberforce: In order to see if a duty of care arises: “First one has to ask whether, as between the alleged wrongdoer and the person who has suffered damage there is a sufficient relationship of proximity or neighbourhood such that, in the reasonable contemplation of the former, carelessness on his part may be likely to cause damage to the latter - in which case a prima facie duty of care arises. Secondly, if the first question is answered affirmatively, it is necessary to consider whether there are any considerations which ought to negative, or to reduce or limit the scope of the duty or the class of person to whom it is owed or the damages to which a breach of it may give rise”. (this is expansive in that it assumes a claim is valid if there is proximity, and there has to be a reason for disallowing it, whereas Caparo’s third stage test asks is there any reason to allow duty of care to be imposed i.e. more restrictive assumption that claim is not good just because proximity/foreseeability is proved). It is not necessary to see if the exact circumstances have been covered before, so long as the above principal applies.  

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