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Stovin v Wise [1996] 3 WLR 389     House of Lords

Mr Stovin suffered serious injuries when he was knocked off his motorcycle by a car driven by Mrs Wise. She had pulled out of a junction in which visibility of traffic was hampered due to a bank of earth which was topped by a fence.  The trial judge held that Mrs Wise was 70% to blame for the accident and that Norfolk County Council were 30% to blame because they knew the junction was dangerous and had been negligent in not taking steps to make it safe. The Council appealed.

Held:

The council were not liable as liability related to an omission. There had only been three accidents in twelve years which was not enough to render the junction a 'cluster site' under the Council's policy for prioritising funding which required five accidents in three years.

 

Lord Hoffman on imposing liability for omissions:

“There are sound reasons why omissions require different treatment from positive conduct. It is one thing for the law to say that a person who undertakes some activity shall take reasonable care not to cause damage to others. It is another thing for the law to require that a person who is doing nothing in particular shall take steps to prevent another from suffering harm from the acts of third parties or natural causes.”
Back to lecture outline on liability for omissions in tort law and policy factors in duty of care