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Anns v Merton London Borough Council [1978] AC 728 House of Lords

The claimants were tenants in a block of flats. The flats suffered from structural defects due to inadequate foundations which were 2ft 6in deep instead of 3ft deep as required. The defendant Council was responsible for inspecting the foundations during the construction of the flats. The House of Lords held that the defendant did owe a duty of care to ensure the foundations were of the correct depth. Lord Wilberforce introduced a two stage test for imposing a duty of care. This has since been overruled by Caparo v Dickman.


Lord Wilberforce's two stage test:

"in order to establish that a duty of care arises in a particular situation, it is not necessary to bring the facts of that situation within those of previous situations in which a duty of care has been held to exist. Rather the question has to be approached in two stages. First one has to ask whether, as between the alleged wrongdoer and the person who has suffered damage there is a sufficient relationship of proximity or neighbourhood such that, in the reasonable contemplation of the former, carelessness on his part may be likely to cause damage to the latter—in which case a prima facie duty of care arises. Secondly, if the first question is answered affirmatively, it is necessary to consider whether there are any considerations which ought to negative, or to reduce or limit the scope of the duty or the class of person to whom it is owed or the damages to which a breach of it may give rise."
 
Back to lecture outline on duty of care in tort law