The defendant is liable for any damage which is the direct consequence of his unlawful act, whether he intended the consequence or not, and whether he could have reasonably foreseen it or not. This view was just upheld in Smith vs L and S W Railway. In this case, during a very dry summer, the Railway Company’s Servants cut the grass and trimmed the hedge bordering the railway line and left the trims and cuttings between line and hedge. A fire caused by sparks from a railway engine ignited these heaps and spread over to a neighboring field and a high wind carried the fire to plaintiff’s cottage, about 200 yards from the spot where the fire began.
Defendants argued that no reasonable man could have foreseen the consequence but they were held liable as the burning of the cottage was the direct consequence of the act of the defendants. This view was adopted by the Court of Appeal in Re Polemis and Furness Withy and Co Ltd . In this case a ship was hired under a charter which exempted both the ship other cargo. During the voyage, the tins containing benzene leaked and there was a lot of vapor in the hold. While shifting the cargo at a port of call, servants of the charterer negligently let a plank drop, into the hold which caused fire and the ship was totally destroyed. The Court of Appeal adopted the direct consequences test and defendants were held liable for the loss of ship.
Mitigation of Damage
An injured person cannot claim damages for any loss which he could have avoided by taking reasonable steps. If a person aggravates his injury by refusing to take treatment, he cannot recover for the aggravation.
In Selvanayagam vs. University of W Indies, the Privy Council laid down that if a plaintiff in an action for damages for personal injuries of surgery must, in order to discharge the burden on him of proving that he acted reasonably in regard to his duty to mitigate his damage prove that in all the circumstances including in particular the medical advice he acted reasonably in refusing surgery.
There are number of other examples and only some of them are discussed here. In Venderburg vs. Traux, the defendant took up a pick-axe and chased the plaintiff’s servant boy, who rushed for shelter into his master’s shop and in doing so he knocked a faucet from a cask of wine spilled and was lost, the defendant was held liable for the loss of wine.
Measures of Damages
The expression ‘measure of damages’ means the scale or rule by reference to which the amount of damages is to be recovered, in any given case, to be assessed. Damages may rise to almost any amount, or they may dwindle down to a nominal figure. The law has not laid what shall be the measure of damages in actions for tort; the measure is vague and uncertain, depending upon a vast variety of causes, facts and circumstances.
The Supreme Court has held that where an employee dies in an accident, appropriate multiplier should be applied for measuring damages. Where the deceased was a 46 years old bank employee and the total loss of dependency was found to be only Rs. 4000/- per month after deduction of 1/3rd of that amount, the Supreme Court held that the multiplier of 12 ought to have been applied by the High Court as 14 years of service were still left on the basis of superannuation age of 60 years of the deceased.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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