Thales company, which carried on business as builders and contractors, undertook work on a well which involved clearing it of water. The well was some fifty feet deep and about six feet in diameter. Hezeltine, director of the company, Wilson and another workman employed by the company, erected a platform twenty-nine feet down the well and some nine feet above the water and lowered on to it a petrol-driven pump.
After the engine of this pump had worked for about one and a half hours it stopped and a haze of fumes was visible in the well. The working of the petrol engine created also a dangerous concentration of carbon monoxide, a colourless gas. Hezeltine returned to the well after working hours that evening and observed the haze and noticed a smell of fumes.
On the following morning at about 7.30 a.m. Hezeltine instructed the two workmen to go to the well, but said to Wilson, "Don't go down that bloody well until I come". The workmen arrived at the well at about 8.15 a.m., and, before Hezeltine had arrived, one of the workmen went down the well and a few minutes later the other workman also went down it.
Both were overcome by fumes. A doctor, who was called to the well, went down the well with a rope tied to his body in order to see if he could rescue the men, though he had been warned not to go. He also was overcome by fumes. Endeavour was made to haul him to the surface by the rope, but the rope caught in a down pipe in the well and he could not be brought to the surface until help arrived some time later. He died shortly afterwards.
The court found that Hezeltine had acted in good faith but that he lacked experience and did not appreciate the great danger that would be created in the well and did not seek expert advice on the proper method of emptying the well. In actions for damages for negligence resulting in the death of Wilson and the doctor damages were awarded, but those awarded in the case of Wilson were apportioned, one-tenth of the responsibility being attributed to Wilson.
On appeal,Held: (i) the defendant company were liable for negligence causing the death of Wilson because the method adopted to empty the well had created a situation of great danger to anyone descending the well on the morning in question, and the defendant company were negligent in that no clear warning of the deadly danger was given to Wilson on that morning,
Hezeltine's order not to go down the well until he came being insufficient to discharge the defendant company's legal duty to take reasonable care not to expose Wilson to unnecessary risk, though the apportionment of one-tenth of the responsibility to Wilson would not be disturbed.
(ii) the defendant company were liable for negligence causing the death of the doctor because it was a natural and proper consequence of the defendant company's negligence towards the two workmen that someone would attempt to rescue them, and the defendant company should have foreseen that consequence; accordingly the defendant company were in breach of duty towards the doctor. .
Go through the above case study and answer the questions below :
3.1 Contrast liability in tort with contractual liability with respect to the case of Thales. (AC 3.1 : Contrast liability in tort with contractual liability).
3.2 Explain the nature of liability in negligence as that could be observed in this case of Thales. (AC 3.2 : Explain the nature of liability in negligence).
3.3 Explain how a business can be vicariously liable by taking the instances of events in Thales. (AC 3.3 : Explain how a business can be vicariously liable).
4.1 Apply the elements of the tort of negligence and defences in different business situations of Thales. (AC 4.1 : Apply the elements of the tort of negligence and defences in different business situations).
4.2 Apply the elements of vicarious liability in given business situations of Thales. (AC 4.2 : Apply the elements of vicarious liability in given business situations).
Asked in Business Law from Kochi, Kerala
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Asked 3 years ago
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Asked 3 years ago
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