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Ogwo v Taylor [1987] 3 WLR 1145 House of Lords

The Defendant attempted to burn off paint from the fascia boards beneath the eaves of his house with a blow lamp and in so doing set fire to the premises. The fire brigade were called and the Claimant, an acting leading fireman, and a colleague entered the house wearing breathing apparatus and the usual fireman's protective clothing and armed with a hose. The two firemen were able, with the aid of a step- ladder, to squeeze through a small hatch to get into the roof space. The heat within the roof space was intense. The Claimant suffered serious burn injuries to his upper body and face from scalding steam which must have penetrated his protective clothing.

Held:

A duty of care was owed to a professional fireman. There was no requirement that the risk be exceptional. The defence of volenti had no application.


Lord Bridge:

"The duty of professional firemen is to use their best endeavours to extinguish fires and it is obvious that, even making full use of all their skills, training and specialist equipment, they will sometimes be exposed to unavoidable risks of injury, whether the fire is described as "ordinary" or "exceptional." If they are not to be met by the doctrine of volenti, which would be utterly repugnant to our contemporary notions of justice, I can see no reason whatever why they should be held at a disadvantage as compared to the layman entitled to invoke the principle of the so-called "rescue" cases."
 
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