Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., (2002) 293 N.R. 1 (HL)

Case DateMay 16, 2002
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2002), 293 N.R. 1 (HL)

Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral (2002), 293 N.R. 1 (HL)

MLB headnote and full text

Fairchild suing on her own behalf and on behalf of the Estate of and dependants of Arthur Eric Fairchild (deceased) (appellant) v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Limited and others (respondents)

Fox (suing as widow and administratrix of Thomas Fox (deceased)) (FC) (appellant) v. Spousal (Midlands) Limited (respondents)

Matthews (FC) (appellant) v. Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (1978) Limited and others (respondents)

([2002] UKHL 22)

Indexed As: Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al.

House of Lords

London, England

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hutton and Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

May 16, 2002.

Summary:

In each of these three cases, the issue was whether former employees could recover damages in the following scenario: (1) the employees were employed at different times and for differing periods by two different employers (2) both employers had a duty to take reasonable care to prevent employees from inhaling asbestos dust because of health risks; (3) both employers breached that duty; (4) the employees developed mesothelioma (a type of malignant tumour); (5) other causes of the mesothelioma could be effec­tively discounted, and (6) the employees could not (because of the current limits of human science) prove, on a balance of prob­abilities, whether the mesothelioma was a result of inhaling asbestos dust during their employment with the first or second employer or during the employment taken together. The Court of Appeal held that applying the conventional "but for" test of tortious liability, damages were not recover­able against either employer. The employees appealed, raising the issue of whether, in the special circumstances of this type of case, principle, authority or policy required or justified a modified approach to proof of causation.

The House of Lords unanimously allowed the appeals. The court, in five separate judgments, discussed how the "but for" test for causation should be applied where a victim has suffered a legal wrong but cannot show which of several possible defen­dants (all in breach of their duty) was the one who caused him the harm.

Torts - Topic 54

Negligence - Causation - "But for" test - Each of the plaintiff employees were employed at different times and for differ­ing periods by two different employers - Both employers had a duty to take reason­able care to prevent inhalation of asbestos dust, but breached that duty - The em­ployees developed mesothelioma (a type of malignant tumour) - Other causes of the mesothelioma, besides asbestos inhalation, could be effectively discounted - The employees could not scientifically prove, on a balance of probabilities, whether the mesothelioma was from inhaling asbestos dust during their employment with their first or second employer or during both periods of employment - The Court of Appeal held that applying the conventional "but for" test of tortious liability, damages were not recoverable against either employer - The employees appealed - The House of Lords unanimously allowed the appeals - The court, in five separate judg­ments, discussed how the "but for" test for causation should be applied where a plain­tiff has suffered a legal wrong but cannot show which of several possible defendants (all in breach of their duty) was the one who caused him the harm.

Torts - Topic 57

Negligence - Causation - Successive or consecutive causes - [See Torts - Topic 54 ].

Torts - Topic 61

Negligence - Causation - Causal connec­tion - [See Torts - Topic 54 ].

Cases Noticed:

March v. E & MH Stramare Pty. Ltd. (1997), 171 C.L.R. 506 (Aust. H.C.), refd to. [para. 10].

Snell v. Farrell, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 311; 110 N.R. 200; 107 N.B.R.(2d) 94; 267 A.P.R. 94; 72 D.L.R.(4th) 289, refd to. [paras. 11, 102, 150].

Environmental Agency v. Empress Car Co. (Abertillery) Ltd., [1999] 2 A.C. 22, refd to. [paras. 12, 58].

Kuwait Airways Corp. v. Iraqi Airways Co. et al., [2002] 2 W.L.R. 1353; 291 N.R. 1 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 12].

Rahman v. Arearose Ltd., [2001] Q.B. 351, refd to. [para. 12].

Blatch v. Archer (1774), 1 Cowp. 63, refd to. [para. 13].

Bonnington Castings Ltd. v. Wardlaw, [1956] A.C. 613, refd to. [paras. 14, 81, 127].

Nicholson v. Atlas Steel Foundry and Engineering Co., [1957] 1 W.L.R. 613, refd to. [paras. 15, 130].

Gardiner v. Motherwell Machinery and Scrap Co., [1961] 1 W.L.R. 1424; [1961] S.C.(H.L.) 1, refd to. [paras. 16, 96, 134].

McGhee v. National Coal Board, [1973] 1 W.L.R. 1; [1973] S.C.(H.L.) 37 (H.L.), refd to. [paras. 17, 44, 64, 79, 126].

Wilsher v. Essex Area Health Authority, [1988] A.C. 1074; 87 N.R. 140 (H.L.), reving. [1987] Q.B. 730 (C.A.), refd to. [paras. 22, 24, 67, 126, 144].

Litzinger v. Kintzler (1957), Cass. civ. 2e; D 1957 Jur. 493, refd to. [paras. 27, 166].

Summers v. Tice (1948), 199 P. 2d 1 (Cal. S.C.), refd to. [paras. 27, 39, 110].

Cook v. Lewis, [1951] S.C.R. 830; 1 D.L.R. 1, refd to. [paras. 27, 39, 110, 164].

Fitzgerald v. Lane, [1987] Q.B. 781 (C.A.), refd to. [paras. 28, 170].

Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories (1980), 26 Cal. 3d 588, refd to. [para. 29].

B v. Bayer Nederland BV (1992), Hoge Raad; NJ 1994 535 [para. 29].

Chappel v. Hart (1998), 195 C.L.R. 232, refd to. [paras. 30, 164].

Naxakis v. Western General Hospital (1999), 197 C.L.R. 269, refd to. [para. 30].

Webster et al. v. Chapman et al. (1997), 126 Man.R.(2d) 13; 167 W.A.C. 13; 155 D.L.R.(4th) 82 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 30].

Bendix Mintex Pty. Ltd. v. Barnes (1997), 42 N.S.W.L.R. 307, refd to. [paras. 31, 164].

Birkholtz v. R J Gilbertson Pty. Ltd. (1985), 38 S.A.S.R. 121, refd to. [paras. 31, 104, 116].

Wallaby Grip (BAE) Pty. Ltd. v. Macleay Area Health Service (1998), 17 N.S.W.C.C.R. 355, refd to. [para. 31].

Baldwin (E.M.) & Son Pty. Ltd. v. Plane (1999), 81 Aust. Torts Reports 499, refd to. [para. 31].

Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois Inc. (1997), 67 Cal. Rptr. 2d 16; 16 Cal. 4th 953, refd to. [paras. 31, 73, 105, 161].

Hadley v. Baxendale (1854), 9 Exch. 341, refd to. [para. 54].

Donaghue v. Stevenson, [1932] A.C. 562, refd to. [para. 55].

Caparo Industries v. Dickman et al., [1990] 2 A.C. 605; 108 N.R. 81 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 55].

Reeves v. Metropolitan London Commis­sioners of Police, [2000] 1 A.C. 360; 245 N.R. 362 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 57].

Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories (1980), 607 P.2d 924, refd to. [para. 74].

Benmax v. Austin Motor Co., [1955] A.C. 370, refd to. [para. 94].

Sentilles v. Inter-Caribbean Shipping Corp. (1959), 361 U.S. 107, refd to. [para. 94].

Hotson v. East Berkshire Area Health Authority, [1987] A.C. 750, refd to. [para. 98].

Haag v. Marshall (1989), 61 D.L.R.(4th) 371 (B.C.C.A.), refd to. [para. 103].

Senior v. Ward (1859), 1 El & El 385, refd to. [para. 128].

Wakelin v. London and South Western Railway Co. (1886), 12 App. Cas. 41, refd to. [para. 128].

Craig v. Glasgow Corp., [1919] S.C.(H.L.) 1, refd to. [para. 128].

Quinn v. Cameron & Robertson Ltd., [1958] A.C. 9, refd to. [para. 130].

Kay's Tutor v. Ayrshire and Arran Health Board, [1987] 2 All E.R. 417; [1987] S.C.(H.L.) 145, refd to. [para. 149].

Caswell v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd., [1940] A.C. 152, refd to. [para. 150].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Fleming, John G., Probabilistic Causation in Tort Law (1989), 68 Can. Bar Rev. 661, generally [para. 32].

Hart and Honoré, Causation in the Law (2nd Ed. 1985), generally [para. 57].

Kortmann, Jeroen, Ab alio ictu(s): Misconceptions about Julian's View of Causation (1999), 20 J. of Legal History 95, generally [para. 157].

McLachlin, Negligence Law - Proving the Connection, in Mullany and Linden, Torts Tomorrow, A Tribute to John Fleming (1998), p. 16 [para. 11].

Markesinis and Unberath, The German Law of Torts (4th Ed. 2002), p. 900 [para. 25].

Monro, C.H., The Digest of Justinian (1909), vol. 2, pp. 121 to 122 [para. 159]; 140 to 141 [para. 158].

Motive zu dem Entwurfe eines Bügerlichen Gesetbuches für das Deutsche Reich (1888), vol. 2, p. 738 [para. 167].

Mullany and Linden, Negligence Law - Proving the Connection, in Torts Tomor­row, A Tribute to John Fleming (1998), p. 16 [para. 11].

Nygaard, Nils, Injury/Damage and Responsibility (2000), pp. 342 to 343 [para. 28].

Robertson, The Common Sense of Cause in Fact (1996-1997), 75 Tex. L. Rev. 1765, generally [para. 32].

Spier, J., Unification of Tort Law: Causa­tion (2000), pp. 77 [para. 26]; 90, 102, 120 [para. 32].

Ulpian, D 9 2 11; 2 Ulpian 18 ad edictum, generally [para. 159].

van Gerven, Walter, Lever, J., and La­rouche, P., Cases, Materials and Text on National, Supranational and International Tort Law (2000), pp. 441 to 443 [para. 24]; 441 to 444 [paras. 27, 166]; 441 to 447 [para. 27]; 444 to 445 [paras. 167, 169]; 447 [paras. 29, 169]; 448 [para. 29]; 449 to 461 [para. 169].

von Bar, Christian, The Common Euro­pean Law of Torts (2000), vol. 2, pp. 441 to 443 [para. 24].

Counsel:

Brian Langstaff, Q.C., and A. Howarth, for the appellants;

Stephen Stewart, Q.C., and Michael Rawlinson, for the respondents;

Lord Brennan, Q.C., intervenor for the respondents.

Agents:

O.H. Parsons & Partners, for the appel­lants;

Halliwell Landau, for the respondents.

These appeals were heard on April 22 and May 7-9, 2002, before Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hutton and Lord Rodger of Earlsferry of the House of Lords. The deci­sion of the court was given orally on May 16, 2002, with the following written reasons released on June 20, 2002:

Lord Bingham of Cornhill - see para­graphs 1 to 35;

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead - see paragraphs 36 to 45;

Lord Hoffmann - see paragraphs 46 to 74;

Lord Hutton - see paragraphs 75 to 118;

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry - see para­graphs 119 to 171.

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21 practice notes
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    • Canada
    • Northwest Territories Court of Appeal (Northwest Territories)
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    • January 27, 2005
    ... [1995] 2 A.C. 296 ; 174 N.R. 164 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 18]. Fairchild v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2003] 1 A.C. 32 ; 293 N.R. 1 (H.L.), refd to. [paras. 31, 73, 172, Commonwealth of Australia v. Amann Aviation Pty. Ltd. (1991), 66 A.L.J.R. 123 , refd to. [para. 143]. H......
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    • British Columbia Court of Appeal (British Columbia)
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    ...; 93 B.C.L.R.(2d) 387 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 129]. Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2002] 3 All E.R. 305 ; 293 N.R. 1; [2002] 3 W.L.R. 89 ; [2002] I.C.R. 798 ; [2002] UKHL 22 , refd to. [paras. 130, Bonnington Castings Ltd. v. Wardlaw, [1956] A.C. 613 ; ......
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    • Canada
    • May 3, 2006
    ...whole of damage - [See Torts - Topic 7003 ]. Cases Noticed: Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2003] 1 A.C. 32 ; 293 N.R. 1; [2002] UKHL 22 , consd. [paras. 1, 50, 66, Gregg v. Scott, [2005] UKHL 2 ; [2005] 2 A.C. 176 ; 330 N.R. 1 , refd to. [paras. 5, 54, 71,......
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21 cases
  • Fullowka et al. v. Pinkerton's of Canada Ltd. et al., (2008) 433 A.R. 69 (NWTCA)
    • Canada
    • Northwest Territories Court of Appeal (Northwest Territories)
    • May 22, 2008
    ...333; 394 W.A.C. 333; 2007 SCC 7, refd to. [para. 39, footnote 69]. Fairchild v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2003] 1 A.C. 32; 293 N.R. 1; [2002] UKHL 22, refd to. [para. 39, footnote 69]. Raywalt Construction Co. v. Bencic et al. (2005), 386 A.R. 230; 58 Alta. L.R.(4th) 266; 200......
  • Gregg v. Scott, (2005) 330 N.R. 1 (HL)
    • Canada
    • January 27, 2005
    ... [1995] 2 A.C. 296 ; 174 N.R. 164 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 18]. Fairchild v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2003] 1 A.C. 32 ; 293 N.R. 1 (H.L.), refd to. [paras. 31, 73, 172, Commonwealth of Australia v. Amann Aviation Pty. Ltd. (1991), 66 A.L.J.R. 123 , refd to. [para. 143]. H......
  • Mooney v. British Columbia (Attorney General) et al., (2004) 202 B.C.A.C. 74 (CA)
    • Canada
    • British Columbia Court of Appeal (British Columbia)
    • July 22, 2004
    ...; 93 B.C.L.R.(2d) 387 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 129]. Fairchild Estate v. Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. et al., [2002] 3 All E.R. 305 ; 293 N.R. 1; [2002] 3 W.L.R. 89 ; [2002] I.C.R. 798 ; [2002] UKHL 22 , refd to. [paras. 130, Bonnington Castings Ltd. v. Wardlaw, [1956] A.C. 613 ; ......
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