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Background

Discuss about the Case Study of Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre v Anzil.

On the facts here, the appellant owned a shopping centre named Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre in Adelaide. The respondent, Mr. Anzil, an employee of the Focus Video Pty ltd had leased premises within the shopping centre that was used as a video shop. There was a huge car parking area facing the video shop. During night, the car park remains dark until the appellant switches on the car park lights. On Sunday, the respondent departed from the video shop around 10:30 pm when the car park lights were switched off. 

Three unidentified individuals who attacked the respondent with a baseball bat causing severe injuries to the respondent. Now, as per the lease terms between the respondent and the appellant, certain services like switching the lights of the common areas like the car parking were rendered under the prudence of the appellant and the tenant paid a percentage of the cost. However, for the last 12 months prior to the attack, the lights are usually turned off at 10 pm. The respondent initiated legal proceedings against the appellant under tort law and claimed damages

The issues dealt with in this case are whether Modbury owed an obligation of care to those who lawfully occupied its land and safeguard them against the criminal acts conducted by third parties. The other significant issue that has been dealt with in this case is whether the action or inaction of Modbury resulted in the injuries sustained by Anzil.

In tort law, ‘duty of care’ refers to the lawful obligation that is imposed on an individual who must adhere to the reasonable standard of care while implementing any acts that is likely to cause harm to another person (Epstein and Sharkey 2016). To succeed in any negligence claim, it is mandatory to establish that a person is obligated to exercise care towards the other person who sustained injuries. The other significant elements that must be established to proceed with a negligent claim include that the person owing duty of care has violated such duty. Secondly, the breach of the duty of care has resulted in causing injuries to the plaintiff. Lastly, the injuries sustained by the plaintiff are a direct consequence of the violation on part committed by the defendant. In other words, such violation must form the direct causation of the injuries sustained or damages suffered by the plaintiff.

Issues dealt with in the case

Duty of care may be considered as set of rules stipulated expressly in a social contract and include the implied responsibilities of an individual towards the society as well. The duty of care may be imposed by a legal procedure between the individuals not having a undeviating relationship that is contractual in nature, however, are related to each other in some manner as set out in case laws or common law (Epstein and Sharkey 2016).

An occupier of the land is obligated to exercise care towards persons who occupied the land lawfully. In Commissioner for Railways v McDermott [1967], it was held that the duty that an occupier of a land owes with respect to the material condition or state of the premises is the control of such occupier over the awareness about the state of such place. In Smith v Lexus [1945], it was established that as a general rule, a person does not owe any duty to control the actions of another person in order to prevent him from causing damage to a third person.

In Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman [1985], Brennan J asserted that the common law differentiates between an omission to prevent causing of harm to another and an act that is likely to affect another person. It was observed in this case that if people owed a legal duty to prevent any harm that is likely to be caused to another and the causing of harm is foreseeable, such burden imposed would not be justified. A reference of the citation made in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] shall elaborate the distinction more precisely.  The general principle established in this case was that a person owing a duty to exercise reasonable standard care must avert acts or omission that is likely to cause injury to another person. The principle did not state that a person owes duty to exhibit a conduct that prevents injury or damage being caused to a third party by that other person.


As was observed in Commissioner for Railways v McDermott, the control and knowledge about the material state and condition of the premises forms the basis of the occupier’s liability towards the land. However, such control or knowledge over the physical condition or state of land is absent if the likelihood of criminal behavior by a stranger on a land is taken into account.  However, in Smith v Littlewoods Ltd [1987], it was held that under exceptional circumstances wherein the risk of harm posed by the criminal conduct of third party is foreseeable and conducts is so highly predictable, that it imposes a duty on the occupier to take reasonable measures to avert it. Such special circumstances form an exception to the general principle.

Introduction to duty of care

In Modbury’s case, in regards to establish whether Modbury owed a duty of care towards Anzil, the High Court contended that a duty to exercise care exists to avoid any injury or damage resulting from any conduct or omissions of third parties. In regards to the issue pertaining to causation, Luntz et al (2016) agrees with the opinion of the trial judge that a clear relation between the attack and the safeguard of the lighting of the common area was established of which Anzil was deprived.

On an appeal made by Modbury before the Full Court of Supreme Court, it was held that though the appellant was responsible for car park, common area, it is irrelevant whether the appellant assumed the responsibility. The appellant owed a duty to exercise care to avert any risk of harm that was predictable and likely to be caused to persons using such shopping centre. Such person also included those who accessed the Video shop or ATMs during night. However, Epstein and Sharkey (2016) asserted that the risk of harm that was likely to be caused to people due to inadequate lighting cannot be said to be foreseeable. It was a precautionary measure to ward off any risk by varying the light-timing device to ensure when customers and workers were at the shopping Centre it had sufficient lights.


In regards to the causation of the issue, the Full court of Supreme Court held that the direct cause of personal injury sustained by the respondent was the intentional wrongdoing committed by the three unidentified men. The respondent argued that since the attack has taken place on the land of the appellant, it forms a basis of the claim that the appellant has contravened the duty of care that it owed to the respondent. He further contended that the omission of the appellant to ensure adequate lights in the parking area amounts to lack of care exercised by the appellant resulting in contravention of his duty to exercise care that the appellant, as an occupier of land owed to the respondent.

However, Luntz et al (2016) disagreed stating that the contention advanced by the respondent is based on the assumption that if the lights in the parking area were left on, it would have prevented the risk of harm that was caused to the respondent from such attack. However, as was observed in Commissioner for Railways v McDermott, the control and knowledge about the substantial state and condition of the premises forms the basis of the occupier’s liability is absent if the likelihood of criminal behavior by a stranger on the premises is taken into account.  Similarly, in this case, the contention made by respondent is irrelevant as the injuries sustained by him was not an outcome of any danger or defect in the physical condition or state of the car parking area, the knowledge of which would otherwise have formed the basis of an occupier’s liability. In other words, it was not established that inadequate lighting covered up for any hidden dangerous object or condition in the car parking area that would cause harm to the respondent.

Obligation of an occupier of land

An occupier of land is obligated to exercise reasonable standard of care to a person lawfully upon such land. In this case, the appellant was obligated to exercise standard of care to the respondent with respect to the physical condition or state of the car parking area. However, the appellant argued whether such duty of care was relevant to the harm caused to the respondent. Epstein and Sharkey (2016) states that in regards to the argument advanced by the appellant, it can be stated that the nature of injuries sustained by the respondent was bodily injury caused by the third party and the appellant did not have any control over their conduct. Therefore, the pertinent duty would have been the duty to secure the respondent. Epstein and Sharkey (2016) agrees by stating that the appellant was the owner of the car park who controlled the lights in it, but the lease terms did not confer upon the appellant any special right to undertake reasonable steps for ensuring safety of customers of tenants and employees.

Conclusion and Court decision

The court held that a person does not owe any duty to prevent another person from any harm caused to him by third person’s criminal conduct even if the harm is predictable. However, the court further recognized that only under certain circumstances where the risk of harm is highly predictable and foreseeable from conduct that results from defendant’s acts or omission independently, the appellant would have owed a duty of care to take positive measures to avert such risk. This is known as special or protective relationship where the defendant is under assumption that the plaintiff is obligated to safeguard the defendant from such causation of harm. The ratio decidendi of this case states that an occupier of land is not responsible to undertake practical measures to prevent a plaintiff from corporeal injury resulting from the criminal behavior of the third parties on that land. This is because the occupier of the land neither exercised control over the circumstances under which the respondent was attack nor over the actions of the attackers.

The duty of care to be exercised by an occupier in negligence with respect to the substantial condition or state of the property arises from the power of control over the condition or state of land exercised by the occupier. This is because the occupier is in a better position to have knowledge about the physical state of such premises. In the given case, the issue pertaining to duty to exercise control over third parties, the majority held that the extent of duty of care arising from the occupier’s liability is not extended to the third parties except in case of special relationship.

In regards to the causation of the damage suffered by the occupier, the appellant cannot be held liable as the instant and undeviating cause of injuries was the assault committed by the offenders deliberately and not inadequate lighting. Further, the occupier was not conferred with the responsibility to ensure security and safety of the respondent as per the terms of the lease. Furthermore, the occupier was in the same position as that of the respondents or any other public, thus, the contribution of the appellant/occupier to the injuries caused to the respondent was negligible. Therefore, if the appellant was held liable for the injuries of the respondent, it would imply that the financial liability arising from the consequence of crime shifted from the actual wrongdoer to the appellant who lacked capacity to influence the conduct that caused injury to the respondent.

Thus, the court directed the respondents to pay the appellant with the expenses incurred in the trial and pay the expenses involved in appeal procedures to the Full Court. The case of Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre Pty Ltd v Anzil has established a significant exception to the duty of an occupier of land to exercise duty of care towards the entrants on the land. It states that an occupier does not have any obligation to undertake any action to prevent third parties from carrying out criminal demeanor resulting in physical injury, against legal entrants of such land provided the occupier do not exercise control over the circumstances under which such conduct is committed.

Reference list

Commissioner for Railways v McDermott [1967] I AC 169 at 186

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 at 580

Epstein, R.A. and Sharkey, C.M., 2016. Cases and materials on torts. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Luntz, H., Hambly, D., Burns, K., Dietrich, J., Foster, N., Grant, G. and Harder, S., 2017. Torts: cases and commentary. LexisNexis Butterworths.

Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre Pty Ltd v Anzil (2000) 205 CLR 254

Smith v Lexus [1945] 70 CLR 2256 at 262

Smith v Littlewoods Ltd [1987] AC 241 at 261

Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman [1985] 157 CLR 424 at 477-479

Cite This Work

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My Assignment Help (2019) Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre V Anzil: Negligence And Duty Of Care [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/case-study-modbury-triangle-shopping-centre-v-anzil
[Accessed 24 April 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre V Anzil: Negligence And Duty Of Care' (My Assignment Help, 2019) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/case-study-modbury-triangle-shopping-centre-v-anzil> accessed 24 April 2024.

My Assignment Help. Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre V Anzil: Negligence And Duty Of Care [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2019 [cited 24 April 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/case-study-modbury-triangle-shopping-centre-v-anzil.

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