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Capital & Counties plc v Hampshire County Council

[1997] 2 All ER 865

Case summary last updated at 18/01/2020 19:50 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Capital & Counties plc v Hampshire County Council

In cases 1 & 2 R (fire brigades) were held liable for negligence where they had turned off sprinkler systems in properties which later caught fire and were destroyed. In case 3 R was not held liable where it had extinguished fire at one property and failed to investigate if an adjacent property was affected, which as a result suffered fire damage. In 4th case, where R failed to put out a fire due to lack of water and P claimed that the statutory duty to act = duty of care, judge struck out the claim of negligence on the basis of no cause of action. CA upheld all these rulings. It held that the claims in cases 1 and 2 should succeed since there was no immunity where the PA themselves created the danger. Case 3 claim should fail because there was no duty of care by R to adjacent properties to those to which they were called. Case 4 claim should fail because the statutory duty did not create a duty of care. CA also said that R was under no duty of care to help and that mere attendance at scene of emergency did not create required proximity.
Judge LJ: Reliance is not sufficient to create a duty of care. It is not a recognised category that emergency services owe positive duties to help and therefore case fails on step 3 of Bridge’s test in Caparo. It also fails step two (proximity) since physical proximity is not really enough given that the only duty I not to further harm. 

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