Overseas Tankship v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co. Case Brief

Summary of Overseas Tankship(DF) v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co.(PL), Privy Council, 1961

Relevant Facts: Mort Docks operated a wharf for shipbuilding and repair in Sydney AUS. The freighter Wagon Mound, (df), was moored when she discharged furnace oil into the harbor. The oil was ignited by molten metal dropped by PL’s workmen.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the damages caused by the discharge of oil onto the water were reasonably foreseeable?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Trial ct. found for the PL, Df appealed and Privy reversed.

Law or Rule(s): A man must be considered to be responsible for the probable consequences of his acts. Those consequences must be reasonably foreseeable.

Court Rationale: A man is responsible for the natural and probable consequences of his acts b/c he is judged by the standard of the RPP, and he ought to have foreseen the consequences. Liability is founded on the consequences not the act involved. Df’s liability could not have been reasonably foreseeable. To know that the oil was discharged, and damage caused to the dock is foreseeable. To state that the df knew or should have known the oil discharged would be ignited when a piece of molten metal would fall upon a floating piece of cotton and cause the damage is not foreseeable.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The damage caused by the df’s negligence was the natural and probable outcome.

Defendant’s Argument: The df did not have knowledge that the oil would ignite on the water from a falling piece of molten metal.

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