Burke v John Paul & Company Ltd

CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date21 December 1967
Docket Number[1962. No. 624 P.]
Date21 December 1967
Burke v. John Paul & Co. Ltd.
[1962. No. 624 P.]

Supreme Court.

Negligence - Master and servant - Liability of master who supplied defective equipment - Extra strain placed on servant - Personal injury of servant - Resultant physical damage - Whether necessary that ultimate damage be foreseeable - Master bound to accept physical condition of servant prior to initial injury.

The plaintiff, a labourer employed by the defendant, sued the defendant for damages in the High Court and claimed that the defendant had been negligent in furnishing the plaintiff with defective equipment for his work and that he had been injured as a result of the extra physical strain imposed on him when using the defective equipment. During the hearing of the action before a judge and jury, it was established that the plaintiff's abdominal muscles had been ruptured and that he had developed a hernia; there was evidence that a hernia usually develops where there is an area of congenital weakness of the abdomen. The trial judge withdrew the plaintiff's case from the jury on the ground that on the evidence they could not have found that the defendant could have foreseen that the plaintiff would develop a hernia as a result of the extra strain imposed on him. On appeal by the plaintiff it was

Held by the Supreme Court ( Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh C.J., Haugh and Budd JJ.) in allowing the appeal and directing a new trial:—

1. That there had been evidence to support a finding by the jury that the defendant had been negligent either by failing to supply the plaintiff with proper equipment or by failing to maintain in proper condition the equipment which had been supplied, thus exposing the plaintiff to an avoidable risk of injury; and that there had been ample evidence to support a finding by the jury that the plaintiff's hernia resulted from the extra strain imposed on him when using the defective equipment.

2. That there was evidence to support the view that the defendant could have foreseen that the extra strain imposed on the plaintiff might cause his muscles to tear and that, as the defendant was bound to accept the condition of the plaintiff at the time of that injury, it was not necessary, for the purpose of determining the liability of the defendant for the ultimate damage resulting from that injury, to establish that the defendant could have foreseen the nature of the ultimate damage.

Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd. (The Wagon Mound) [1961] A. C. 388 considered.

Smith v. Leech Brain & Co. Ltd. [1962] 2 Q. B. 405 applied.

Appeal from the High Court.

The plaintiff, an employee of the defendant, was injured while cutting steel bars by means of the hand-operated cutting machine with which he had been furnished by the defendant. The blades of the cutter were blunt and caused the plaintiff to exert a greater physical effort during his work than would have been necessary had the blades of the cutter been maintained properly. The plaintiff's abdominal muscles were torn and he developed a hernia. At the trial on the 17th and 18th June, 1963, of the plaintiff's action against the defendant in the High Court before McLoughlin J. and a jury, in which the plaintiff claimed damages for the negligence of the

defendant, the trial judge withdrew the plaintiff's case from the jury and entered judgment for the defendant on the ground that, as there was evidence that a hernia usually develops where there is an area of congenital weakness of the abdomen, there was not sufficient evidence to justify a finding that the defendant could have reasonably foreseen that the plaintiff would have developed a hernia as a result of operating the cutting machine. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court.

Ó Dálaigh C.J. ó dálaigh :—

I agree with the reasons which Mr. Justice Budd is about to state.

Haugh J. :—

So do I.

Budd J. :—

In this case the Court has already determined that this appeal should be allowed, and has ordered a retrial. I now state my reasons for that decision.

The plaintiff in these proceedings is a builder's labourer and the defendants are a limited company engaged in constructional work. The plaintiff brought proceedings against the defendants alleging that he had suffered personal injuries, loss and damage as a result of the negligence and breach of

duty of the defendants, as his employers, in failing to provide him with a safe system of work; in particular, that they failed to provide him with adequate and suitable appliances for carrying out the work he was engaged to do. A plea of breach of statutory duty was not pursued at the trial of the action. The defendants denied any negligence on their part and pleaded that the damage was too remote.

The plaintiff, in the course of his duties as an employee of the defendants, was on the 16th and 17th June, 1960, engaged in the defendants' premises at Windy Arbour, County Dublin, in cutting steel bars which were required for building purposes. For the purpose of carrying out this work the plaintiff was supplied with an instrument called a guillotine. This guillotine was an apparatus somewhat like the blades of a large scissors. The lower blade was bolted to a large block of wood with the blade facing upwards. The other blade of the instrument was attached to the block in such a fashion that the blade swivelled at one end. At the other end it had a long handle which enabled the blade to be lifted up and down. The sharp edge of the moveable blade was so placed that it...

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13 cases
  • ACC Bank Plc v Fairlee Properties Ltd and Others
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 4 February 2009
    ...1 IR 465, Allied Maples Group Ltd v Simmons & Simmons [1995] 1 WLR 1602, Breslin v Corcoran [2003] 2 IR 203, Burke v John Paul & Co Ltd [1967] IR 277, South Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd [1997] AC 191 and Aneco Reinsurance Underwriting Ltd v Johnson & Higgins L......
  • Reeves v Carthy
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1984
    ...have been anticipated does not excuse the Defendants. In my view, the case viewed in this light is very similar to Burke v. John Paul 1967 I.R. 277. In dealing with foreseeability on the facts of that case, Budd J. giving a judgment which was supported by the other members of the Court sai......
  • Wicklow County Council v Fenton (No 2)
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 31 July 2002
  • University College Cork v Electricity Supply Board (ESB)
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 5 October 2015
    ...is foreseeable, it is immaterial that the defendants could not anticipate the full extent of the damage. ( Burke v. John Paul & Co. Ltd. [1967] I.R. 277, 285). 837 990. [79] The law does not require that the precise nature of the injury be reasonably foreseeable before liability for its co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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