“Whenever the courts draw a line to mark out the bounds of duty, they do it as a matter of policy so as to limit the responsibility of the defendant”.
Discuss the above proposition, with reference to at least three cases.
'Policy' usually involves the consideration that no person or government official can legally perform an act that intends to injure the public, or their interests. In the respect of the courts, it focuses on the idea that judges use their discretion to direct a judgement towards one that the public would generally favour. Following the judgment of Caparo v Dickman1, policy is also recognised as what is 'fair, just and reasonable' rather than simply focusing on questions of proximity and forseeability in order to mark out bounds of duty. Thus, policy can be used to limit the defendant's responsibility leading to floodgates closing and unnecessary litigation being minimised.
The courts are seen to adopt policy in Nettleship v Weston 2 where the defendant, Mrs Weston, an inexperienced learner driver, lost control and caused an accident harming the plaintiff. Lord Denning MR stated that the standard of care for a learner driver would be the same as the usual standard that fully qualified drivers were held to, as it is in the public interest to ensure that all drivers are held liable. Further, a policy consideration that was taken into account when making this decision was that the defendant was covered by insurance, meaning that the risk would fall on her. This was seen as fair, just and reasonable as the injured person is able to recover damaged from the insurance policy, however the damages were subject to deduction due to contributory negligence which limited the responsibility of the defendant.
The bounds of duty of care also come into controversial question where public authorities are concerned such as the police. Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire3 saw the mother of a victim of the infamous Yorkshire Ripper claim that the...
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