This is an extract of our The Tort Of Negligence History document, which we sell as part of our History of English Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.
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The Tort of Negligence Liability for Unintentional Harm in the 15th/16th centuries:
? 15th c/16th: In 15th/16th c. do not want to punish. Focuses on the forcefulness of the conduct and the need to compensate C's damage: Lack of intent to cause damage held to be irrelevant:
- Hulle v. Orynge - The Case of Thorns (1466); Move to strict liability Facts: H brought trespass against O for cutting/taking trees valued at PS5, and trampling on grass, valued at 5 marks. O's defence: He owned land adjoining H's so was cutting a thorn hedge that was growing on his land. The thorns fell 'against his will' onto H's land so he immediately went onto H's land and threw the thorns back onto his own land. Opinion favouring O:
? + Catesby argued: 'If a man does something lawful whereby damage befalls another, against his will, he shall not be punished'. Cutting was lawful, and the falling of the thorns onto H's land was against O's will, so the taking back was permissible. Opinions favouring H:
? + Bryan argued: 'When someone does something he is bound to do it in such a way that no prejudice or damage is done to others by his action.
? + Littleton J: 'If a man suffers damage it is right that he should be compensated'. Men have responsibility for their wandering cattle. 'The law is the same in great things as in small'.
? + Choke LJ: 'As to the point that they fell against his will, that is no plea; but he must say that he could not have acted in any other way, or that he did all he could to keep them out, or else he shall answer for the damage'. Case would be different if 'the falling was not his act but was caused by the wind'. Decision: Judgment given for H.
- Weaver v. Ward (1616); Facts: C brought trespass against D and counted that D beat, wounded and ill-treated him with force and arms. D contended the he accidently, by misfortune and against his will injured C whilst discharging his musket. Decision: Held for C. 'No man shall be excused of trespass (for this is in the nature of an excuse, and no of a justification) except it may be adjudged utterly without his fault.'
- Gibbon v Pepper (1695); Facts: C complained that Pepper (D) made assault upon him. D argued that his horse became terrified and ran away with him, and he warned passersby to look out. Decision: Found in favour of P. Reasoning: P was the cause of the accident. 'In the same manner, if A takes the hand of B, and with it strikes C, A is the trespasser and not B'. Liability is to do with the nature of the act, not D's intention. Ways to avoid liability for trespass vi et armis:Break of causation argument - There was an intervening act of nature, an animal or a third party, so the trespass was not my fault.
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