Gough (an Infant) v Thorn – Case Summary

Gough (an Infant) v Thorn

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1966] 1 WLR 1387; [1966] 3 All ER 398; (1966) 110 SJ 529; [1966] CLY 8076.


A lorry driver stopped at a junction and waved at traffic to stop, to allow a thirteen-year-old girl and her siblings to cross. When the girl tried to cross, the defendant (who was not paying attention) hit her with his car. The girl sued the defendant in negligence. The defendant argued that the girl’s damages should be reduced for contributory negligence.

  1. Is the fact that the claimant is a child relevant to contributory negligence?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the girl. It was not negligent for a thirteen-year-old to rely on the lorry driver’s assurance. The defence of contributory negligence was therefore inapplicable.

This Case is Authority For…

A person’s age is relevant to whether they took reasonable care for their safety. Very young children cannot be expected to take any care, and so cannot be contributorily negligence. Older children can be, but this will depend on what was reasonable for a child that age.