A more recent version of these Omissions Liability Notes notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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Omissions Liability Notes 2013. Omissions & Liability of Public Authorities. Omissions: Seemingly three types. 1. Causing a danger to arise and not fixing it. 2. Assuming responsibility for a person. 3. Holding a position of responsibility. Then there are public authority liability cases which have normal rules applied to them post-Justiciability test.
Goldman (Australia) (1967) - Tree hit by lightning. Felled by D but not out properly. Reignited and damaged C's property. Lord Wilberforce - rule is that anger caused by a trespasser is D's responsibility if he had knowledge of it or means of knowledge and fails to take reasonable action to end it. Law for natural danger needs to be the same. This avoids evidential confusion as to how the danger arose, also satisfies logic since source is irrelevant.
Barrett (1995) - D was head of naval base where C drank to excess on cheap alcohol. X put him to bed but he died by choking in night. Beldam LJ - To extend duty of care to D for omission to look after C would not be just, fair and reasonable as it would dilute responsibility. As alcohol's effects vary greatly, to extend the duty to maintain welfare to one to prevent drinking which leads to unconsciousness would be impractical. But court did say that assumption of responsibility for solider led to duty but that this wasn't breached.
Stovin (1996) - C had obstructed view due to earth bank but was driving negligently. Council had requested permission to remove mound but received no response. Not their statutory right to proceed anyway. Lord Hoffmann - Omissions could not normally satisfy the 'proximity' requirement. This is because (1) omissions liability inhibits freedom to make moral choices, (2) it would be unfair to pick on one person rather than another in a "good Samaritan" scenario where lots fail be good Samaritans, and (3) economically an act should bear its own costs so that people make choices according to the cost to them: externalities distort our decision-making process i.e. we will be more careless if we can force others to pay for our mistakes. Even if proximate not fair, just and reasonable to impose duty to act.
Kent (2000) - Ambulance took 40 minutes to make 6 minute journey and C suffered brain damage he wouldn't have if on time.
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