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IRAC analysis Haynes v/s Harwood

Facts of the case:
On 24th August, 1932, a man named Bird, who was the defendant's servant, was driving a two-horse carriage, in the course of his employment. For the purpose of his masters bidding, bird unloaded the cart in Quinley's Yard on the left side of Paradise Street, where the horse carriage was initially parked, at that time it had chain on the near back wheel of carriage, placed to act as a drag-on to prevent it from sliding down the slope of street.

The wharf owner wanted to continue with their work and had to unload another van at their wharf, considering this; Bird took the horses and carriage out into the busy Paradise Street and left them unattended on the left side of the street, facing the police station while he went to get the delivery receipt from wharf owners.

An independent observer recorded that, two boys were coming the carriages way and one of them mischievously threw stones at horses, which is why, the horses started bolting. They ran a considerable distance with no one interfering in between but as soon as they crossed the police station, police officer on duty (The plaintiff), noticed that an old woman and some children were in grave danger because of the approaching horses.

So endangering his life, the plaintiff caught hold of one of the horses and held on for 15 yards and finally stopped the horses. But in doing so, he sustained serious personal injuries, for which he demanded damages which was decided to be 350 by both the parties.

Procedural history
In the initial case of Haynes V. Harwood the decision was in favor of the plaintiff (police officer, Thomas John Haynes). Where the plaintiff had claimed for damages from the defendant through the King's Bench in 1935. An appeal was filed in the court of appeal by the defendant. The appeal was later dismissed.

Issue raised
The following issues were raised in the court:
  • Weather the defendants were liable for Tort of Negligence when they left the horses unattended.
  • Weather the maxim "novus actus interveniens" applies here as a defense.
  • Weather it was the legal duty of the officer to protect people on street from harm.
  • Weather the maxim "volenti non fit injuria" applies in this case.

Rules/Case laws
Following rules were considered by the court while deciding the case:
  • Negligence:
    Negligence is a legal term for wrongdoing. In simple terms, it refers to irresponsible behavior, resulting in lack of appropriate or reasonable care. Citizens owe a duty of care to fellow citizens, breech of which leads to legal damages to others which can be challenged in the court of law.

    In this case negligence is:
    "A failure to use reasonable care for the safety of those who were lawfully using the highway in which this van with the two horses attached was left unattended." -Greer, LJ
  • Novus Actus Interveniens:
    It refers to an intervening act between the first negligent act and the final damage experienced by the plaintiff, which indicates that the legal loss sustained by the plaintiff was substantially due to that intervening activity that furthered the wrong of the defendant.
  • Volenti Non Fit Injuria:
    When a person places himself in a position where they might suffer harm, they cannot bring the claim against another party in tort.

Eckert v. Long Island Railway Co[1] it was held that the the above stated doctrine does not apply where the plaintiff has knowingly and intentionally faced a risk, to rescue another person from danger, injury or death, whether the person who was in danger is someone to whom he owes a special duty of protection, or someone to whom no such duty is owed.

The defendants are guilty of negligence because they left the horses unattended on a busy Paradise street. As stated by the solicitor for the defendants, the servant "knew the locality" which only strengthens the claim of negligence because the street has various houses, schools and churches lined along its side. And there were no safeguards in place to prevent the horses from bolting. Since the servant appears to have taken no reasonable precautions to guarantee that individuals who were lawfully using the street were not harmed, negligence is evident.

The involvement of boys who threw stone on horses led to the question of, novus actus interveniens but Lynch v Nurdin[2], it was held that there was novus actus interveniens because the boy's misconduct started the horse but it could be treated as defendants wrong because it was anticipated that children would do mischief. Any one gives them such opportunity can not escape from their liability. Same was applied to this case and this defence was made inapplicable.

The defendant presented his case, since because the officer voluntarily engaged in an act that would almost certainly result in harm, a claim was made that volenti non fit injuria can be used to explain his position. The court decided that the plaintiff being a police officer owed a duty of care to the public and because of this, principle of volenti non fit injuria would not apply.

It was held that "Novus Actus Interveniens" was not applicable in this case and since it was apparent that horses were left standing, unwatched on a busy street and were disturbed, any man with sense of risponsibility, especially an on-duty police officer, would attempt to stop it and be injured in the process, the opposition couldn't plead volenti non fit injuria because the police officer's actions were part of his general obligation to the public. Initial decision delivered by Finlay J. was upheld. In conclusion, the defendants were held liable and the plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages.

  1. Eckert v. Long Island Railway Co, 43 N.Y. 502
  2. Lynch v Nurdin, [1841] 1 Q.B. 29

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