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Capital & Counties (Capco) v Hampshire County Council [1997] 3 WLR 331

Three conjoined appeals in actions against emergency fire services:

Capital & Counties (Capco) v Hampshire County Council

A fire broke out in the building owned by the claimant . The fire brigade arrived and turned off the sprinkler system. They then had difficulty in locating the seat of the fire during which time the fire became out of control. By the time the firemen had located the seat of the fire Block A of the building had collapsed and spread to blocks B & C. They then reactivated the sprinkler system however, by now it was so damaged as to not work effectively. In the event the entire building was completely destroyed causing loss of £16M. Had the sprinklers not been switched off it is likely blocks B & C would have been saved.

John Munroe v London Fire Brigade

A special effects technician caused an explosion on wasteland which adjoined the Claimant’s land which contained Industrial premises. Burning debris from the explosion caused small fires to break out. The fire brigade were called and extinguished the fires on the wasteland but failed to check the Claimant’s premises.

Church of Jesus Christ v West Yorkshire Fire

 

A fire broke out in a classroom adjoining the Chapel. The fire services were called and arrived promptly.  However, the firemen were unable to fight the fire due to lack of water supply. Four of the hydrants surrounding the church were faulty and a further three were not located in time to fight the fire. Consequently both the classroom and the chapel were destroyed. The Claimant brought an action for breach of statutory duty based on the Fire Services failure to inspect the hydrants.

Held:

 

No duty of care was owed in John Munroe v London or Church of Jesus Christ v West Yorkshire, however, a duty of care was owed in Capital & Counties v Hampshire since the fire brigade’s action in turning off the sprinklers increased the damage.

Back to lecture outline on policy factors in relation to duty of care in negligence claims