The Test of Remoteness in the Tort of Negligence.

Essay by lewiscolinUniversity, Bachelor'sB, August 2005

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The law places a limit upon the extent to which the defendant is liable for the loss which occurs from his breach of a duty of care to the plaintiff, once it is established that the loss sustained by the plaintiff is one recoverable in negligence. The test of remoteness of damage limits this liability by defining certain types of damage or losses as being irrecoverable as a matter of law. The test is carried out to protect the defendant in breach of their obligations from unusual or unexpected claims.

The test for remoteness was for some time considered to be that laid down in Re Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd where it was held that all harm suffered as a direct result of a breach of duty was recoverable, which meant that as long as some damage to the plaintiff is foreseeable, the defendant is liable for all the damage that results directly from the negligence and even applies to a plaintiff who was not within the reasonable foresight of the defendant.

However due to the conflict between this proposition and the neighbour principle laid down in Donohue v Stevenson and the general reluctance of the courts to make the defendants liability limitless, this proposition was soon rejected.

The current test of remoteness used by the courts was developed in the case, Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound) No 1. In this case, Lord Simons said that it was the foresight of the reasonable man which alone can determine responsibility. However there does not appear to be any definition of what exactly constitutes reasonable foresight.

Since The Wagon Mound No 1 the courts have frequently reiterated that the defendant may be liable even though he could not...