Murdoch's Term of the Week: Remoteness of Damage

In the antiquated case of Hadley v Baxendale (1854), D was hired to transport the broken crankshaft of a mill for repair but they delayed, causing loss of business for P. The court had to decide whether D should be liable for the lot, or just what was foreseeable. This week's TOTW provides illumination...


Remoteness of Damage

(1) In contract (qv), the general rule is that damages for breach of contract will apply only to the loss flowing naturally from the breach, such that a reasonable man could foresee, or such as may reasonably be supposed to have been in the contemplation of the parties, at the time they made the contract, as the probable result of the breach of it; otherwise, the loss will be too remote: Hadley v Baxendale [1854] 9 Exch 341; French v West Clare Railway Co [1897] 31 ILT & SJ 140; Victoria Laundry v Newman Industries [1949] 2 KB 528; Stock v Urey [1955] NI 71; Wagon Mound Case [1961] AC 388; McGrath v Kiely [1965] IR 497; Lee Donoghue v Rowan [1981] HC.

Where it is reasonably foreseeable that a person may be unable to mitigate or remedy the consequences of another person’s breach of duty by reason of impecuniosity, such additional losses which may arise in this manner are recoverable and are not to be regarded as being too remote: Doran v Delaney [1999 HC] 1 ILRM 225.

(2) In tort (qv), a defendant is liable only for the damage of such a kind as a reasonable man would have foreseen: Burke v John Paul Ltd [1967] IR 277. The owner of a car who left it unattended and unlocked on a public street with the keys in the ignition, was held not to be liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff by the negligent driving of the thief who stole the car: Breslin v Corcoran and MIBI [2003 SC] 2 ILRM 189; [2003 SC] 2 IR 203 - Law Society Gazette (July 2003) 38. The court held that there was nothing to suggest in the case that the owner should have anticipated that there was a reasonable probability that the car, if stolen, would be driven so carelessly as to cause injury to another user of the road such as the plaintiff. See DAMAGES; ECONOMIC LOSS; NOVUS ACTUS INTERVENIENS.


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