Haynes v Harwood – Case Summary

Haynes v Harwood

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1935] 1 KB 146; [1934] All ER Rep 103.


The claimant was a police officer who was on duty in a crowded street. The defendant had left his horses unattended. The horses were let loose by mischievous children, causing them to stampede down the street. The claimant realised that a woman and several children would be in severe danger if the horses continued to stampede. Because of this, he rushed forwards and was able to stop the horses. However, he was injured in the process.

  1. Did the defendant owe a duty of care in this scenario?
  2. Did the defendant breach the duty in this scenario?
  3. Were the actions of the children in releasing the horses a novus actus interveniens?
  4. Did the defence of volenti non fit injuria apply to these facts?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the claimant. A duty of care was owed. The high risk of harm posed to the crowded street made it clear that it was a breach to leave horses unattended. Since the defendant should have foreseen the risk of children releasing the horses, there was no novus interveniens. Volenti non fit injuira was inapplicable.

This Case is Authority For…

If a defendant ought to have foreseen that an animal might escape and that a person might be injured trying to prevent them from doing harm, the defendant owes a duty of care.

Where a third party’s acts are the natural and probable consequence of the defendant’s negligence, those acts will not be a novus actus interveniens. Essentially, if the third party’s acts fall within the scope of harm or mischief which the duty is designed to prevent, causation will not be broken.


The three judges differed on why they thought volenti non fit injuria was inapplicable.

  • Greer LJ stated that where the claimant’s acts are a natural and probable consequence of the defendant’s negligence, then the defence of volenti non fit injuria will not apply.
  • Maugham J phrased this differently. He stated that if a reasonable and courageous person would have acted as the claimant did, the defence will not apply.
  • Roche LJ, meanwhile, pointed out that there was no basis on which the claimant could be said to have ‘agreed’ or ‘assented’ to bear the risk.