Funny cases digest: Torts

E (a child) v Souls Garages (2001)

In the E case, a petrol station manager broke the law by selling petrol in a can to the claimant, a 13-year-old boy. Unknown to the manager (though he could have guessed, had he thought about it), the claimant wanted to get high by sniffing the petrol. The claimant and a friend of his spent some time sniffing the petrol, in the course of which they managed to spill a fair amount of petrol on their clothes. After a while, they decided to smoke a cigarette, with the predictable consequence that the claimant’s clothes were set alight. The claimant ended up with burns on 56% of his body. It was held that the petrol station manager could be sued for the claimant’s injuries: as it had been reasonably foreseeable that selling the claimant the petrol would have the result it did, the manager had owed the claimant a duty not to sell him the petrol. (Excerpt from Tort Law by McBride and Bagshow, 5th edition, page 140)

Comment: This is a case relevant to the duty of care in the Torts of negligence. What the case surprises me is not the logic of the decision, but the way English boys got themselves high: sniffing the petrol, which is far out of my imagination. (Updated on April 2, 2017)

Mogul Steamship Co Ltd v McGregor, Gow & Co (1892)

In the mid-1880s one group of shippers entered into an association in order to try to squeeze rival shippers out of the China tea shipping market. The association offered discounts on freight charges to shipping agents who only ever used ships owned by association members, and association members agreed between themselves that if a nonassociation ship tried to find a cargo of tea, they would immediately send association ships to the same port to offer to carry the cargo at a cheaper freight rate, even if they had to carry it at a loss. The defendants in the action were members of this association.

The claimants owned ships which had previously taken part in the China tea trade, and indeed had been part of the association in previous years, but had been excluded in 1885 because the claimants only sent their ships to China for the three-week tea season when shipping was most profitable while the other association members operated shipping links between China and Europe all year round. Despite being excluded, the claimants sent their ships to China to load tea during the 1885 season. The association responded by sending ships to undercut their rates, and the claimants were forced to make their rates so low that they made a loss in order to get any cargo at all.

The claimants then sued the defendants, but the House of Lords held in Mogul Steamship Co Ltd v McGregor, Gow & Co (1892) that the defendants had not committed a tort in relation to the claimants. Lord Watson explained that although the defendants had agreed to band together and pursue the course of action which caused loss to the claimants:

If neither the end contemplated by the agreement [between members of the association], nor the means used for its attainment were contrary to law, the loss suffered by the [claimants] was damnum sine injuria

Comment: This is a case relevant to the The economic torts(conspiracy), what is funny is that it is a case relevant to China, and what’s more funny, to China in Qing Dynasty. It makes me remember the war between Qing and UK in the 19th century, mainly the two Opium Wars. After more than 100 years, the Qing has gone forever, and the case relevant to it and that time is still alive.(updated June 11,2017)

(Continuously updating…)

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