Davies v Swan Motor Co – Case Summary

Davies v Swan Motor Co

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1949] 2 KB 291; [1949] 1 All ER 620; [1947-51] CLY 6675.


The claimant was the estate of a man who the defendant employed to operate a dust lorry. The lorry had steps on the side which enabled the workers to load bins into the lorry. The defendant had prohibited the workers from using these steps while the lorry was moving, stressing how dangerous this was. The claimant ignored this instruction, and was on the side-steps when the lorry driver negligently collided with a bus. He died as a result of his injuries. The High Court found the defendant liable in negligence. However, there was a dispute over whether the defence of contributory negligence could be invoked.

  1. What must be shown to establish contributory negligence?

The Court of Appeal affirmed the finding of negligence. However, the court also concluded that the man had been contributorily negligent because he ignored the warnings not to use the stairs while the lorry was in motion. The court accordingly reduced the damages by 1/5th.

This Case is Authority For…

To demonstrate contributory negligence, it is sufficient to show that a lack of care on the claimant’s part was a cause of their loss. There is no need to prove that the claimant breached a duty owed to the defendant.