Case Analysis: Haynes V/s Hardwood

Author: Kumari Bhargavi Symbiosis Law School, Pune


Case Details – Haynes V/s. Hardwood

Case Name: Haynes. V. Hardwood[i]

Citation: [1935] 1 KB 146

Plaintiff: Mr. Haynes

Defendant: Mr. Hardwood

Areas of Law: Negligence, Injury in course of duty, Volenti non fit injuria

Court: Court of Appeal of England and Wales

Division Bench: Roche LJJ, Greer, and Maugham

Facts

  1. Hardwood (the defendant) was the owner of a two-horse van that was managed by his servant, who within the course of his employment left the van unattended in an extensively populated area of the town.

  2. The defendant’s servant had attached a chain to one of the wheels of the van, however it broke eventually as the horses got agitated by few of the children playing nearby who threw stones at them.

  3. Consequently, they bolted along the busy streets in a chaotic manner frightening the pedestrians.

  4. Haynes (the plaintiff) a police constable on duty, in the nearby police station was watching the whole scenario decided to take hold of the situation by stopping the horse and succeeded in the process meanwhile injuring himself, thereby he claimed damages from the defendant. The decision was in favour of the plaintiff through the King’s Bench in 1935[ii], however the defendant appealed in the Court of Appeal.

Issues

  1. Is the defendant negligent on his part?

  2. Is the principle of ‘Novus actus interveniens’ applicable as a defence in this case?

  3. Is the legal maxim ‘Volenti non fit injuria’ enforceable as a defence in this case?

  4. Whether the defendant will be liable to pay damages to the plaintiff or not?

Rules

The Court in this particular case applied the following legal rules:

  1. Negligence:

Negligence refers to the omission to do or not to do something which a reasonable man would do or not do. It refers to the breach of legal duty to take care by the defendant thereby causing damages to the plaintiff. For a tort law the defendant has to compensate the damages because of the harm caused to the plaintiff due to carelessness and for a negligence to be claimed successful four elements need to be proved which are duty, breach, harm and cause.

  1. Novus actus interveniens:

The legal term, Novus actus interveniens is a Latin term meaning ‘new act intervening’ referring to break the chain of causation so that even if negligence is on the part of the defendant the connection between the wrong done is broken such that liability is not on part of the defendant[iii].

  1. Volenti non fit injuria:

The legal maxim, Volenti non fit injuria means that no wrong it done to the person who has assented for the harm himself/herself. It states that if the plaintiff has voluntarily subject himself/herself to a risk then he cannot sue the defendant for the damages as his consent itself serves as a defence against him[iv].

Analysis

In the case Haynes. V. Hardwood, the Court thoroughly examined all the rules and facts, and after deliberating both the sides presented to it by the defendant and the plaintiff considered the following application of law in the presented case:

  1. Negligence on part of the defendant:

Negligence refers to the absence of reasonable care to be taken off by the defendant to avoid any harm to its neighbours. In the situation provided, the defendant was accused of breaching his duty of care that he owed to the plaintiff, amongst others, by not taking reasonable care of his horse and leaving his carriage unsecured. The horse gone loose and running in an amok manner could have impaired the others had it not been stopped by the plaintiff who in turn sustained injury in the process. Another aspect of the case was that the children’s actions lead to the horse running in a chaotic manner. Therefore, the defendant in his counter arguments mentioned that he should not be held liable because the accident did not occur due to negligence on his part.

  1. Applicability of the defence of Novus actus interveniens:

The case of Lynch. V. Nurdin[v], was taken up by the court as a reference for a comparative analysis where the defendant had left his cart and his horse in the roadway unattended, that had few youngsters as pedestrians. One among the children got on the cart while the other set the horse free to move as a result of which the former got injured. This case undoubtedly highlights that the actions of the children were in correlation to the legal term ‘Novus actus interveniens’ because the consequences of the act could have been foreseen by them, therefore the defendant claimed to escape liability on the ground of Novus actus interveniens. However, the arguments presented against him were that in the case provided the defendant’s acts can be considered as wrongful because being a reasonable man he could have foreseen the acts of the children, therefore engaging into such actions he cannot escape liability.

  1. Applicability of the defence of Volenti non fit injuria:

The Court referred to the case of Brandon v. Osborne Garrett & Co.[vi], where the plaintiff were a husband and wife. The wife in order to protect her husband from the apprehending dangerous act of the defendant, injured herself. In this case the husband was provided compensation because he suffered injuries due to the negligent act of the defendant, while the wife was not provided any remedies since the injuries sustained by her was the repercussion of her own act. In the case of Haynes. V. Hardwood, the defendant claimed the defence of Volenti not fit injuria, since the policeman, within his course of employment was under a legal obligation to protect the public, therefore he exposed himself to the danger.

Conclusion

The Court in the case of Haynes. V. Hardwood concluded the following:

  1. The defendant owned a duty of care to his neighbours, however he failed to take reasonable care of his van and horses, therefore he was held negligent under the provided circumstances[vii].

  2. The defendant was not provided the defence of Novus actus interveniens since he was negligent initially and the acts of the children was not the only reason for the occurrence of the accident.

  3. The defendant could not escape liability on the grounds of the defence of Volenti non fit injuria because the police officer was legally obliged to safeguard the public moreover the accident was capable of being predicted as one of the rational and presumptive corollaries of the wrongful act by the defendant.

  4. Based on above conclusions it was held by the judges that the defendant’s actions were foreseeable, thereby he was liable to pay compensation to the plaintiff.

References

[i] Haynes. V. Hardwood, [1935] 1 KB 146.

[ii] Lexpeeps, https://lexpeeps.in/haynes-v-harwood-1935-1-kb-146/ (last visited March 02, 2022).

[iii] Legal Service India, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-4131-novus-actus-interveniens-isolated-torts-.html#:~:text=Novus%20actus%20interveniens%20is%20Latin,contributed%20to%20the%20consequence%20concerned (last visited March 02, 2022).

[iv] Law Times Journal, https://lawtimesjournal.in/volenti-non-fit-injuria/ (last visited March 02, 2022).

[v] Lynch. V. Nurdin, [1841] 1 Q.B. 29.

[vi] Brandon v. Osborne Garrett & Co., 1924 1 K.B. 548.

[vii] My Legal Partner, https://mylegalpartner.wordpress.com/tag/haynes-v-harwood/ (last visited March 02, 2022).

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