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Top 5 Important Case Laws on Defences to the Law of Torts | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams PDF Download

When individuals face legal challenges, they often seek various defenses to navigate through legal cases. Here are summaries of five significant cases in the history of torts involving defenses taken by parties:

Padmawati v. Dugganaika

Facts

  • The defendant, Dugganaika, owned a jeep registered as MYS 438. On March 16, 1969, he was traveling from Hiriyaka to Kodur with Mohiddin, the third respondent, as the driver. Upon reaching Kodur, Dugganaika disembarked and instructed Mohiddin to take the jeep to Hosanagar and refuel it. At Kodur, Krishna Bhat and the deceased, Ramakrishna, boarded the jeep, which then proceeded towards Hosanagar. 
  • Approximately a mile into the journey, Ramakrishna signaled the driver to stop, but the bus driver failed to notice. Ramakrishna then heard a noise from the jeep and signaled for it to continue. However, shortly after, the right side of the front of the jeep detached, causing both the driver and Ramakrishna to be thrown out. Ramakrishna sustained fatal injuries.
  • The plaintiff claimed damages, arguing negligence on the part of the driver.

Held

  • The court found neither the master nor the driver liable, as the driver had not been driving negligently or recklessly, and the plaintiff had voluntarily entered the jeep, implying consent.
  • This principle is known as volenti non-fit injuria, where the plaintiff voluntarily consents to and suffers harm.

Hall v. Brook Lands Auto Racing Club

Facts

  • During a racing competition held on an oval track, spectators were required to pay fees to view the event. As the race progressed, two cars were racing parallel towards the finish line when suddenly, during a sharp left turn, one of the cars unexpectedly veered right. 
  • This action caused a collision between the two cars, resulting in one of them flying into the air and directly hitting two spectators, leading to their deaths. This was the first such accident to occur at the club.
  • The injured individuals and the families of the deceased spectators filed a compensation case against the owner of the track.

Held

  • The court held that the deceased spectators and the injured individuals had implicitly assumed the risk of injury by attending the event. The owner of the track invoked the defense of volenti non-fit injuria, arguing that the spectators had consented to the inherent risks of the dangerous sport by purchasing tickets and entering the stadium. Therefore, the defendant was not held liable.

Question for Top 5 Important Case Laws on Defences to the Law of Torts
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In the case of Padmawati v. Dugganaika, why did the court find the driver and the owner of the jeep not liable?
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Brown v. Kendall

Facts

  • Brown and Kendall both own dogs. One day, their dogs began fighting, prompting the defendant to intervene with a stick approximately four feet long. 
  • While attempting to separate the dogs, they suddenly bolted towards the plaintiff, and in the process, the defendant accidentally struck the plaintiff in the eye with the stick, causing severe injury.
  • The plaintiff filed a case against the defendant for assault and battery.

Held

  • The court held that if an individual is engaged in a lawful act in a lawful manner, exercising ordinary care as a reasonable person would, they cannot be held liable for injuries caused to another party.
  • In this case, Brown needed to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent and intentionally struck him with the stick to establish liability. If the injury to Brown was unavoidable, the defendant would not be held liable, and the defense of Inevitable Accident would apply.

Nichols v. Marshland

Facts

  • The defendant constructed artificial lakes some years prior. These lakes had never flooded until June 18, 1872, when an unusual rainfall occurred. Due to the heavy rainfall, the lakes overflowed, causing the gates of the dam to give way, resulting in water flowing towards a bridge.

Held

  • The court held that the defendant was not liable for the incident, as there was no negligence on their part. The occurrence was deemed an Act of God, which refers to an event that cannot be prevented despite exercising due care and diligence, and which is unavoidable. The court noted that the lakes had existed for years without incident, and the unprecedented heavy rainfall was a contributing factor to the overflow. Therefore, the defendant was not held responsible for the consequences of the natural disaster.

Kallulal v. Hemchand

Facts

  • The appellants owned a house located in Local Gunj of Jabalpur, with one wall of the house adjoining the highway. A cycle wheel was stuck on this wall, which faced the highway. During a rainy day, the wall collapsed, resulting in the tragic death of two children of the stall owner.
  • The case was brought against the owner of the house, with the defendant contending that the collapse was an act of God and they were not at fault.

Held

  • The court held the defendant liable, as the rainfall recorded was 2.66 inches, which was deemed ordinary and not an act of God. Therefore, the defendant was deemed responsible for the incident and was ordered to compensate the plaintiff. The defense of Act of God can only be invoked when an event is extraordinary and beyond reasonable anticipation or control.

Question for Top 5 Important Case Laws on Defences to the Law of Torts
Try yourself:
In the case of Padmawati v. Dugganaika, the court ruled in favor of the defendant based on which defense?
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FAQs on Top 5 Important Case Laws on Defences to the Law of Torts - Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

1. What are some important case laws related to defences to the law of torts?
Ans. Some important case laws related to defences to the law of torts include Donoghue v Stevenson, Rylands v Fletcher, Bolton v Stone, and Andrews v Hopkinson.
2. How do defences play a role in the law of torts?
Ans. Defences in the law of torts are legal arguments that defendants use to avoid liability for their actions. They serve as justifications for why the defendant should not be held accountable for the harm caused.
3. What is the significance of understanding defences in the context of tort law for judiciary exams?
Ans. Understanding defences in tort law is crucial for judiciary exams as it helps candidates analyze and evaluate legal scenarios effectively, enabling them to make informed decisions on liability and damages in tort cases.
4. How do case laws on defences to the law of torts influence judicial decisions in tort cases?
Ans. Case laws on defences to the law of torts provide precedents for judges to consider when determining the outcome of tort cases. They help establish legal principles and guidelines for assessing liability and applying defences in different factual situations.
5. Can defendants successfully use defences to avoid liability in tort cases?
Ans. Yes, defendants can use defences to avoid liability in tort cases if they can prove that their actions fall within the legal parameters of the specific defence being invoked. However, the success of using defences depends on the strength of the evidence and legal arguments presented in court.
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