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Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945

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Citation  1945 c. 28
Royal assent  15 June 1945
Territorial extent  United Kingdom
Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945
Long title  An Act to amend the law relating to contributory negligence and for purposes connected therewith.

The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, which allows a judge to apportion liability for compensatory damages as he feels to be "just and equitable" between a tortfeasor and an injured person who was partly to blame.

Historical background

Until the Act was passed, English tort law had held that contributory negligence was a full defence to negligence. This rule composed what is sometimes called the "unholy trinity" of defences to negligence which wrought particular hardship on 19th century workers, and barred them from any compensation for ghastly workplace injuries (the other two are common employment and volenti non fit injuria). It meant that if an employer was 99% at fault for his worker being mangled in his machinery, but the worker was 1% at fault, then the worker could recover nothing in compensation for injuries. Outside the workplace, an example of the defence is found in Waite v North-Eastern Railway Co where a grandmother and an infant that were hit by a negligently driven train were barred from any claim.

The Act was passed by the new Labour government following World War II, along with a number of other workplace safety and common law reforms (e.g., Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948).

This common law rule subsisted longer in other countries than in the United Kingdom. An example is seen in The Wagon Mound (No 1) where the claimant conceded that a burning ship accident was unforeseeable in order to avoid the contemporary Australian contributory negligence bar.

References

Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 Wikipedia


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