Scott v Shepherd
Citations: (1773) 2 Blackstone W 892.
The defendant (a child) threw a lit squib across a market. It landed at the feet of a third-party, who picked up and threw the squib onwards to prevent injury to himself. The squib hit the claimant, burning the claimant’s face.
The claimant sued the defendant for trespass against the person. The defendant argued that he should not be liable, since it was a third-party who threw the squib at the claimant, not him.
- Did the third-party’s actions render the defendant non-liable?
The Court held the defendant liable. To sustain an action in battery, there is no need for the defendant to personally touch the claimant, provided the touching is a natural and probable consequence of his actions.
This Case is Authority For…
It is possible to commit trespass via a third-party where defendant foreseeably causes that third-party to assault or batter the claimant. This will often be the case where the defendant’s actions give the third-party no real choice as to how to act.
Blackstone J dissented, arguing that the defendant’s acts were too indirect and non-immediate to constitute trespass against the claimant. He thought that the actions of the third-party were sufficiently voluntary to break the chain of causation.