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Goldman v Hargrave

[1967] 1 AC 645

Case summary last updated at 19/01/2020 11:59 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Goldman v Hargrave

A tree in D’s garden was struck by lightening and caught fire. He could have put it out with water but, wrongly, believed that the best approach was to let the fire “burn out”. Later on, the wind picked up and spread the fire to P’s property which was damaged. Privy Council held that he was liable: There is a general duty of care of land-owners to prevent hazards on their land harming others. This duty is based on awareness of the hazard, ability to foresee consequences of not checking or removing it, and the ability to abate the hazard. The standard of the duty of care required is “what it was reasonable to expect of him in the circumstances.” The justification for the “in all circumstances” qualification is that a person with no resources cannot be expected to tackle a fire as well as a person with a fire hose in their garden i.e. to impose a purely objective standard of care would be “unjust and unenforceable”. 
Lord Wilberforce: “A rule which required of him… in his neighbour's interest a physical effort of which he is not capable, or an excessive expenditure of money, would be unenforceable or unjust.” 

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