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   Case summaries      Ancell v McDermott



Ancell v McDermott [1993] 4 All ER 355 Court of Appeal

The claimant was involved in a road traffic accident in which he was seriously injured and his wife died. The incident occurred as a result of the car slipping on diesel which had spilt in the road following an earlier incident. The police had been informed of the spillage but had not taken action to clean it off the road or to make the road safe. The claimant brought an action against the police and they applied to have the claim struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action. The judge refused to strike out the claim and the police appealed.


Appeal allowed no duty of care was owed.

Beldam LJ:

"such a duty of care would impose upon a police force potential liability of almost unlimited scope. Not only would the class of persons to whom the duty was owed be extensive, but the activities of police officers which might give rise to the existence of such a duty would be widespread. The constable on the beat who failed to notice a danger on the pavement or noticed it but dismissed it as insufficiently serious to warrant his attention, the officer who searched for but failed to find property when he might have done or the officer who misinterpreted a breathalyser reading might all be said to come under liability to anyone who could show that they suffered injury or loss as a result of his failure. Further, I am not persuaded that there is any sufficient distinction from the reasoning which led the House of Lords to reject the existence of a duty in Hill's case to justify the imposition of a duty to act in the circumstances of the present case."



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