Baker v Willoughby – Case Summary

Baker v Willoughby

House of Lords

Citations: [1970] AC 467; [1970] 2 WLR 50; [1969] 3 All ER 1528; (1970) 114 SJ 15; [1970] CLY 1862.

Facts

The claimant was about to cross the road. He had a clear view, and could see one car when he looked right. When he crossed the road, he was struck by the defendant’s car. The defendant had overtaken the only car the claimant had seen and had not taken action to evade the claimant. The claimant suffered serious injuries to his leg as a result. Before trial, the claimant was mugged and shot in the same leg. The leg had to be amputated. The claimant sued the defendant in negligence.

Issue(s)
  1. Could the claimant recover damages after the point at which he would have lost the use of his leg in any event?
Decision

The House of Lords held in favour of the claimant. The later cause was ‘concurrent’ with the original cause. As such, the defendant should be taken to have caused the claimant’s losses even after the date of the later cause. The claimant’s damages should not be reduced, as a result.

This Case is Authority For…

If a later injury is ‘concurrent’ with the injury the defendant inflicted, damages should not be reduced to reflect the fact that the claimant would have suffered the loss in any event.

What exactly this case decides is unclear. In particular, it is unclear when an injury will be deemed ‘concurrent’. This is because the decision in Baker seemingly conflicts with the House of Lords decision in Jobling v Associated Dairies [1982] AC 794. In Jobling, the House of Lords distinguished and criticised Baker, but did not overrule it.

There are two ways of interpreting this case:

  • A subsequent tortious cause will not break the chain of causation between the defendant’s tort and the ongoing injury;
  • A subsequent non-natural cause will not break the chain of causation between the defendant’s tort and the ongoing injury.
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