Scott v The London & St Katherine Docks Company – Case Summary

Scott v The London and St Katherine Docks Company

Court of Exchequer

Citations: (1865) 3 Hurlstone and Coltman 596; 159 ER 665.


The claimant was a customs officer who was injured when six bags of sugar fell from a crane on top of him at the defendant’s docks. It was not clear exactly why the sugar fell. At trial, the judge held that the claimant had failed to establish negligence and directed the jury to find for the defendant.

  1. Should the jury be allowed to consider whether the defendant had been negligent?

The Court of Exchequer overturned the judge’s ruling and remitted the case for trial. The jury should have been allowed to consider whether there was negligence.

This Case is Authority For…

Where an accident happens which would not ordinarily occur without negligence, and the defendant was in control of or managing the environment in which it happened, this is prima facie evidence that negligence has happened. In those circumstances, the defendant needs to show an alternative explanation for how the accident happened without negligence.