E-law cases
Custom Search
   Case summaries      Barrett v MOD

Barrett v MOD [1995] 1 WLR 1217

The claimant’s husband was in the Navy stationed at a remote base in Norway. One night he was celebrating his  30th birthday and a recent promotion by drinking with his  friends in the bar provided at the Naval base. It was a Friday night which was a night on which the men would generally indulge in heavy drinking. The bar was putting on an Hawain night and duty free alcohol was available. The claimant’s husband was drinking heavily and was involved in a drinking competition and became extremely drunk to the point where he passed out. He was carried to a chair in the lobby. A senior officer saw him and told Petty Officer Wells to take him back to his cabin and look after him. He was taken back and placed in his bunk and left in the recovery position. He was in a coma but tossing and turning. The Petty Officer checked on him on two occasions but he was then found dead at 2.30am. At trial the judge held that the MOD were liable for his death because of the relaxed attitude towards excessive drinking at the base, in that it was common for officers to drink heavily and rules and penalties relating to alcohol consumption were not being enforced. The damages were reduced by 25% under the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence Act) 1945. The MOD appealed on the grounds that no duty of care should arise to prevent a person becoming intoxicated.



The MOD were liable, not through breach of a duty of care to prevent him becoming dangerously intoxicated, Until the deceased became unconscious, he alone carried the legal responsibility for his own actions, however, once the senior officer assumed a responsibility for him by ordering the Petty Officer to look after him a duty of care did arise. He was in breach of duty by failing to ensure the deceased received the appropriate supervision.
Back to lecture outline on omissions in relation to duty of care in tort law