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Re Polemis

[1921] 3 KB 560

Case summary last updated at 15/01/2020 19:25 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Re Polemis

 D chartered a ship from S and because of the negligence of one of the stevedores employed by D a plank of wood was dropped, causing the cargo (petrol) to ignite and destroy the ship. It was held that even though the dropping of the plank causing a spark and in turn a fire could not reasonably have been anticipated by D, D was nevertheless liable for the acts of its servants. Bankes LJ: the damage was “direct”
Warrington LJ: “The presence or absence of reasonable anticipation of damage determines the legal quality of the act as negligent or innocent. If it be thus determined to be negligent, then the question whether particular damages are recoverable depends only on the answer to the question whether they are the direct consequence of the act.” Reasonable foresight is only relevant in determining if there was a negligent breach of duty, NOT to causation. 
Scrutton LJ: "Once the act is negligent, the fact that its exact operation was not foreseen is immaterial."

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