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After a claimant has shown that the defendant’s negligence has caused them a loss, they must also show the damage is not too remote. The test for remoteness was initially one of directness. Now, the test is based on foreseeability.

Cases

In Re Polemis and Furness, Withy and Co Ltd [1921]
In Re Polemis and Furness, Withy and Co Ltd is an early Court of Appeal case which held that a defendant is liable for all losses which are a direct consequence of their negligence.

Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co Ltd (Wagon Mound) [1961]
In Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock (Wagon Mound), the Privy Council held that a defendant should only be liable for damage which was reasonably foreseeable. In doing so, they held that In Re Polemis should no longer be regarded as good law.

Smith v Leech Brain & Co Ltd [1962]
In Smith v Leech Brain & Co Ltd, Lord Parker CJ concluded that a defendant is liable in full for the damage irrespective whether the extent of the damage was reasonably foreseeable.

Hughes v Lord Advocate [1963]
In Hughes v Lord Advocate, the HL held that only the type of harm needs to be reasonably foreseeable. Therefore, a defendant will remain liable even if foreseeable harm is caused in an unforeseeable manner.

Robinson v Post Office and another [1974]
In Robinson v Post Office and another, the Court of Appeal confirmed that a defendant is liable in full for all damage irrespective of the extent of harm, so long as the type of harm is reasonably foreseeable.

Page v Smith [1996]
In Page v Smith, the House of Lords confirmed that a claimant only needs to show that some personal or psychiatric harm was reasonably foreseeable for the tort of negligence. Similarly, they confirmed the principle that a defendant takes his victim as he finds him applies also to psychiatric harm.

Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008]
In Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd the House of Lords held that the harm was not too remote where a primary victim commits suicide as a result of a pyschiatric illness caused by the defendant’s negligent act.


The impecunious claimant

For a long time there was an exception to this rule for impecunious claimants, although this exception has since been overturned by the House of Lords.

Liesbosch Dredger v SS Edison [1933]
In Liesbosch Dredger v SS Edison, the House of Lords held that a claimant is unable to recover losses that result from their own impecuniosity. Therefore, any losses which could have been avoided but-for the claimant’s want of means were not recoverable.

Lagden v O’Connor [2004]
In Lagden v O’Connor, the House of Lords overturned its earlier decision in Liesbosch Dredger v SS Edison, holding that a claimant can recover their actual loss where this loss is increased due to their personal impecuniosity.

The effect of a contract

Wellesley Partners LLP v Withers LLP [2015]
In Wellesley Partners LLP v Withers LLP, the Court of Appeal held that the contractual test of remoteness applies in the tort of negligence where there is a contract between the parties.

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