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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Case Law - Marshall v. Gotham (1954)

Case: Marshall v. Gotham (1954)
Precedent: Reasonably Practicable

The case concerned the collapse of a mine roof which had been subjected to earlier tests but which collapsed due to a rare geological fault.

However, the evidence also showed that after the accident, additional precautions were taken in the area near the accident: a hydraulic prop was used unless the roof was thought to be thin, in which event that area was bypassed. The plaintiff argued that it would have been reasonably practicable for the defendants to use props (as they did after the accident). The trial judge found no negligence at common law, but ruled in the plaintiff’s favour on the statutory claim, reasoning that hydraulic props should have been used before as well as after the accident.

The Court of Appeal unanimously reversed, on the ground that because the risk was not reasonably foreseeable it was not reasonably practicable to guard against it. As Jenkins, L.J., explained, “it cannot fairly be said to be ‘reasonably practicable’ to guard against a contingency that could not reasonably have been foreseen, inasmuch as its occurrence would be contrary to all previous experience.”

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