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Why Winterbottom v Lord Derby is important

Winterbottom v Lord Derby makes clear that if the claimant cannot prove that he has suffered any special damage, i.e. more damage than suffered by the other members of the public, he cannot claim any compensation for the same.

Facts

In Winterbottom v Lord Derby, the defendant blocked a public footway. As a result of this, Winterbottom had to use another route and sometimes even had to incur additional expenses to remove the obstruction.

Claim

The claimant brought a claim in the tort of public nuisance against the defendant. He claimed for the expenses that he incurred to remove the obstructions caused by the defendant.

Issue

Whether the plaintiff can bring an action for his additional expenses caused by the defendant’s public nuisance.

Held

The defendant was not held liable to the claimant in the tort of public nuisance.

Reasoning

The court held that he could not recover the damages as he had not suffered any more damages than could have been suffered by other members of the public.

Kelley J. observed,

If we were to hold that everybody who merely walked up the obstruction, or who chose to incur expenses in removing it might merely walked up the obstruction, or who chose to incur expenses in removing it might bring his action for being obstructed, there would really be no limit to the number of actions which might be brought

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