claim would be dealt with in the tort of negligence. The four requirements
needed for negligence claims are; actionable damage, duty of care, breach of
duty and causation. Andy would be liable and Hettie would therefore have a
claim in negligence.
The legal issue here is whether Andy should be
liable. Lord Hoffman stated in Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co Ltd that
actionable damage could be damage to property or personal injury.1 In
this instance actionable damage is present in the form of property damage due
to Andy’s negligence.
Duty of care
Furthermore, it has to be established whether there
was a duty of care. If we were to look at the principle established in Wells v Cooper that as an amateur you
need to know your limits and you can’t take on tasks you are incapable of.2 This
is applicable in Hettie’s case as Andy had only been training for a month and
went beyond his capabilities for a job that should be undertaken for a professional;
therefore it was negligent of him to have not informed Hettie that the job may
require a professional. The defendant Andy owed the claimant Hettie a duty of
care to fix the problem with her radiators and failed to live up to this
standard of care.
Breach of duty
In determining if there’s a breach of duty the
courts look at two things; what was the standard of care expected of Andy did
the defendant fall below this. Breach of duty is decided by looking at the
objective test as the defendant should’ve met the standard of a reasonable
person. This was established in Blyth v
Birmingham Waterworks Co that negligence is failing to do that which a
reasonable person would do in the same circumstance.3
Therefore the issue in this case is whether Andy failed to live up to the
standard of a reasonable and competent plumber who would’ve have foreseen the
risk and whether he fell below this.
Another case that’s applicable here is Nettleship v Weston as the defendant was
expected to have reached the standard of the reasonably competent driver and
was found to be legally at fault. 4 This is because a defendant can’t claim
a lower standard of care due to their lack of skill as they have claimed a
professional skill and are doing the work of a professional, which is what Andy
did in this case but as a reasonably competent plumber
Although Andy was inexperienced this doesn’t
lower the standard of care as Wilsher v.
Essex Area Health Authority refers to inexperienced professionals. 5
This says that an individual who is inexperienced should ask for an expert’s
advice if the task is beyond their skill set; we hold them to the same standard
as the person who usually does it. The professional standard of care is
objective as the same standard of care will be required of all professionals.
Therefore Andy would be viewed as a reasonable and competent plumber and
therefore breached his duty.
Hettie’s case the reasonable person would’ve taken more precautions to ensure
that they were completing the task properly. Andy fell below the standard of
the reasonable person and therefore breached his duty. The way in which the law
would apply to these facts is that by virtue of the fact that Andy undertook a
task beyond his skill set and is therefore negligent.
The last factor to consider is causation;
there are two forms factual and legal. To determine factual causation we consider
the ‘but for’ test; this was established in Barnett
v Chelsea and Kensington Hospital Management Committee to determine whether
the event would’ve occurred but for the act of the defendant.6 In Hettie’s case but for the defendant’s
negligence would she the claimant’s have suffered a loss, no because this
property damage wouldn’t have occurred if Andy hadn’t forgotten to flood the
radiator, therefore there is evident factual causation.
Legal causation must also be established, this
is whether the defendants’ negligence be responsible for the claimants’ loss. This
is based on the decision in The Wagon
Mound (No 1) which held that the defendants shouldn’t be held liable for
their negligence when it’s not reasonably foreseeable.7
In Hettie’s case the damage was remote as by Andy forgetting to remove the
water from the radiator; it was only inevitable that it would cause a flood.
As Hettie’s claim meets all the requirements
she will have a claim in the tort of negligence. In light of all these reasons
a concluding outcome for this case is that Andy is liable for the damage he
caused and one would therefore advise Hettie that she has as a claim.
1 Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co Ltd 2007 UKHL 39.
2 Wells v
Cooper1958 2 QB 265
3 Blyth v
Birmingham Waterworks Co (1856) 11 Ex. 781
v Weston 1971 2 QB 691
5 Wilsher v.
Essex Area Health Authority 1988 AC 1074
6 Barnett v
Chelsea and Kensington Hospital Management Committee 1969
1 QB 428
Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co ( The Wagon Mound) (No 1) 1961 AC 388