This was a case in the Exchequer Chamber.
At trial the claimant Mr Scott had said ,
I am an officer of the Customs. I am an auxiliary examiner. I superintend weighing goods. On the 19th of January I had performed duty at the East Quay of the London Docks. I was directed to go from the East Quay to the Spirit Quay by Mr. Lilley, the surveyor. I went to the Spirit Quay in order to do duty. I proceeded on my way. There are warehouses on the Spirit Quay. I went to the entrance of one of the warehouses, and could not find Mr. Lilley. I was told he was in another warehouse. I was proceeding to where I was told he was at the time of the accident. I proceeded to the first door I met upon the quay. I went into the warehouse of which it was the door. I met a labouring man about two yards within the warehouse. I asked him if Mr. Lilley was there. He said, “No, sir; you will find him in the next doorway.” In passing from one doorway to the other I was felled to the ground by six bags of sugar falling upon me. (He then described the injuries he received.) No one but myself was at the place. I had no warning. There was no fence or barrier. No one called out. I heard the rattling of a chain.
The judgment of Erle , C. J. was as follows,
“The majority of the Court have come to the following conclusions:—
There must be reasonable evidence of negligence.
But where the thing is shewn to be under the management of the defendant or his servants, and the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of explanation by the defendants, that the accident arose from want of care.
We all assent to the principles laid down in the cases cited for the defendants; but the judgment turns on the construction to be put on the Judge’s notes. As my brother Mellor and myself read them we cannot find that reasonable evidence of negligence which has been apparent to the rest of the Court.
The judgment of the Court below must be affirmed, and the case must go down to a new trial, when the effect of the evidence will in all probability be more correctly ascertained.”
This case establishes that:
(a) the claimant must show that whatever caused the accident was under the management of the defendant;
(b) the accident must be shown to be the sort of thing that does not happen where defendant (being the manager) has exercised reasonable care;
(c) this is then accepted as reasonable evidence that there was a lack of reasonable care on the part of the defendant;
(d) unless the defendant puts forward an explanation of the accident.
This case has been the subject of substantial later judicial comment. See other entries under this tag