Goodwill v British Pregnancy Advisory Service – Case Summary

Goodwill v British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1996] 1 WLR 1397; [1996] 2 All ER 161; [1996] 2 FLR 55; [1996] 2 FCR 680; [1996] PIQR P197; [1996] 7 Med LR 129.


The defendants arranged for a man to have a vasectomy. They informed him that it was a success and that he was now sterile and did not need to use contraception. Three years later, the man had sex with the claimant, a woman. The claimant had spoken to her own doctor about contraception and they had told her of the very remote possibility of vasectomies spontaneously reversing. The man’s vasectomy had in fact reversed. As a result, the claimant became pregnant and had a healthy baby girl.

The claimant sued the defendants in negligence, claiming the economic cost of raising her daughter. The defendants applied to have the claim struck out.

  1. Did the defendants owe the claimant a duty of care when advising the man?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the defendants. The defendants did not owe the claimant a duty of care. The action was struck out.

This Case is Authority For…

It is not foreseeable when advising a man about vasectomies that his future sexual partners will rely on that advice without seeking independent advice, where at the time the claimant is merely one of an indeterminate class of women. Applying the principles in Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd, there is no voluntary assumption of responsibility in this situation.


Gibson LJ commented that the matter might be different if the claimant were the man’s wife or existing partner who the doctor knew would rely on the advice.

The court also noted that since the claimant had received independent advice it could not be said that she had relied on the defendants’ advice.