Whether a suit for negligence can be filed against Sam and who can file it?
The law of negligence prevents a person from taking or not taking any action which could result in causing harm to another party. It is referred to failure of a duty by a person that resulted in causing harm to another party. A party who suffered any harm or loss due to breach of duty of another party can claim for damages from the party based on the law of negligence. In this context, Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) AC 562 case is important. The claimant filed a suit against the defendant to claim damages for the negligence (Cornock, 2011, p. 21). The claimant suffered personal injury because the drink he ordered from the café of the defendant had remains of a dead snail which negatively affected the health of the claimant. The court accepted the claim by providing that a duty of care was owed by the student towards his customers which was breached and due to such breach the claimant suffered loss. Thus, the court allowed the claim of the claimant for damages. In this case, the court provided the neighbour test which can be understood from section 5B (1) of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) (CSU LAW504 Modules, 2018, Topic 3).
This section provides that there must be reasonable foreseeability of the risk based on which any reasonable person would have taken actions to prevent the loss of another party. The court gave similar views in the judgement of Perre v Apand (1999) 198 CLR 180. The duty which is owed by the party must be breached in order to claim for damages (CSU LAW504 Modules, 2018, Topic 3). Without breaching of a duty of care, a suit for negligence cannot be formed. Section 5B (2) provides provisions regarding this matter. This section provides that the court should evaluate factors including the likelihood of harm, seriousness of injury, social utility and cost and efforts to prevent the harm by not breaching the duty of care. In Bolton v Stone (1951) AC 850 case, the court provided that probability of harm is necessary to be analysed before allowing a claim for negligence. In Latimer v AEC Ltd (1953) AC 643 case, the court provided that the party breached his/her duty of care if he/she failed to take reasonable actions towards protecting another party (Luntz et al, 2017). Another factor which is required for suit of negligence is causation of the harm as given under section 5D (1).
The law provides that loss suffered by a party must be direct cause of the negligent action taken or not taken by the defendant. The ‘but for’ test is used by the court to identify whether the cause of harm was the actions of the defendant that was given in the case of Cork v Kirby Maclean (1952) 2 ALL ER 402. Finally, remoteness of the damages suffered by a party is evaluated by the court to allow the damages for negligent action (CSU LAW504 Modules, 2018, Topic 3). The damages which are too remote cannot form part of a negligence suit as given in the judgement of Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd (1961) AC 388. Although the party who suffers damages due to negligence can claim for compensation, however, the voluntary assumption of risk principle provides an exception to this rule. As given under section 5G, parties cannot claim damages for obvious or inherent risk suffered by the party. The court also provided in Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd case that damages which are foreseeable kind are only liable for damages and injury which is too remote is not liable for a claim of damages (CSU LAW504 Modules, 2018, Topic 4).
In the given case study, due to Sam’s negligence, contaminated fuel is filled into the aircraft of White Ltd, Blue Ltd and Green Ltd. Due to contaminated fuel, the aircraft of White Ltd was involved in an accident due to which the company suffered a loss of $1 million. A duty of care was present which was breached due to the negligence of Sam. As per the accident report, the cause of the accident was contaminated fuel, thus, Sam is liable to pay damages to White Ltd. The loss suffered by the owner of Mercedes Benz is too remote, and it was not foreseeable, thus, he cannot hold Sam liable for his damages. Sam told the pilot of Blue Ltd not to fly his aircraft based on which he prevented a bigger disaster. Due to the prevention of risk and fulfilment of duty of care by Sam, he is not liable towards Blue Ltd. He is also not liable towards the customer who suffered a loss of $250,000 since the damages were too remote. Lastly, Sam asked the pilot of Green Ltd not to fly his aircraft; however, he ignored his warning and still flies his aircraft. Thus, in this scenario, Sam is not liable towards Green Ltd based on the voluntary assumption of risk.
Based on the above observations, a suit for negligence can be filed by White Ltd against Sam. Other parties cannot hold Sam liable for the loss suffered by them.
Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW)
Bolton v Stone (1951) AC 850
Cork v Kirby Maclean (1952) 2 ALL ER 402
Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) AC 562
Latimer v AEC Ltd (1953) AC 643
Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd (1961) AC 388
Perre v Apand (1999) 198 CLR 180
Cornock, M ‘A legal commentary on negligence’ (2011) 23(1) Paediatric Nursing 21.
CSU LAW504 Modules
Luntz, H, Hambly, D, Burns, K, Dietrich, J, Foster, N, Grant, G and Harder, S (2017). Torts: cases and commentary, London: LexiNexis Butterworths.