Stovin et al. v. Norfolk County Council, (1996) 202 N.R. 290 (HL)

Case DateJuly 24, 1996
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(1996), 202 N.R. 290 (HL)

Stovin v. Norfolk County Council (1996), 202 N.R. 290 (HL)

MLB headnote and full text

Stovin and another (respondent) v. Norfolk County Council

(appellants)

Indexed As: Stovin et al. v. Norfolk County Council

House of Lords

London, England

Lord Goff of Chieveley,

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle,

Lord Slynn of Hadley,

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead,

and Lord Hoffmann

July 24, 1996.

Summary:

The Norfolk County Council (the Council), the local highway authority, had responsibil­ity for maintaining and improving highways, in­cluding powers to remove potential sources of danger. Section 79 of the Highway Act 1980 gave the authority power to direct the owner of land to make alterations to remove obstructions to the view of road users. The owner could recover the cost from the au­thority. In 1988, the Council wrote British Rail suggesting that a bank should be removed to improve visibility at a particular road junc­tion. A meeting was held and British Rail's representative agreed to seek the necessary internal approval. However, nothing further was done. Eleven months later, Wise's vehicle entered the junction and struck Stovin who was riding his motorcycle. Stovin suffered serious injuries. Stovin sued Wise for damages on the ground of negli­gence. Wise joined the Council as a third party on the ground that the Council had been negligent in not making the junction safer. Stovin's claim against the Council was based primarily on the Council's statutory duty to maintain the highway. The alterna­tive ground was a duty of care at common law.

The trial court held that Wise was 70% at fault and the Council 30% at fault. The claim against the Council based on the statutory duty was dismissed because the offending bank was not part of the highway. It was land adjoining the highway. However, the claim based upon a common law duty was allowed. The Council appealed.

The Court of Appeal of England, in a decision reported [1994] 1 W.L.R. 1124, dismissed the appeal. The Council appealed.

The House of Lords, Lord Slynn of Hadley and Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, dissenting, allowed the appeal.

Crown - Topic 1563

Torts by and against Crown - Negligence by Crown - Breach of statutory duty - [See Torts - Topic 9156 ].

Crown - Topic 1563

Torts by and against Crown - Negligence by Crown - Breach of statutory duty - A motorist sued the highway authority in negligence at common law on the ground the authority breached its statutory duty to maintain the highways - Lord Hoffmann, speaking for the majority in the House of Lords stated that "I think that the mini­mum pre-conditions for basing a duty of care upon the existence of a statutory power, if it can be done at all, are, first, that it would in the circumstances have been irrational not to have exercised the power, so that there was in effect a public law duty to act, and secondly, that there are exceptional grounds for holding that the policy of the statute requires compen­sation to be paid to persons who suffer loss because the power was not exercised" - See paragraph 100.

Crown - Topic 1645

Torts by and against Crown - Actions against Crown - Defences, bars or exclu­sions - Policies or "policy" decisions - A motorist sued the highway authority in negligence at common law on the ground the authority breached its statutory duty to maintain the highways - In determining the issue, the House of Lords considered the matter of distinguishing liability on the basis of the "policy vs. operation" dichot­omy - See paragraphs 93 to 108.

Municipal Law - Topic 1805

Liability of municipalities - Negligence - Standard of care - Maintenance of streets and highways - [See Torts - Topic 9156 ].

Torts - Topic 77

Negligence - Duty of care - Relationship required to raise duty of care - [See Torts - Topic 9156 ].

Torts - Topic 80

Negligence - Duty of care - Concurrent liability - [See Torts - Topic 9156 ].

Torts - Topic 275

Negligence - Breach of statute - General principles - [See second Crown - Topic 1563 and Torts - Topic 9156 ].

Torts - Topic 9156

Duty of care - Particular relationships - Claims against public officials or author­ities - Highway authorities - The Norfolk County Council (the Council) was the local highway authority - It had statutory re­sponsibility for maintaining and improving highways, including powers to remove potential sources of danger - A certain road junction was dangerous because a bank on railway property blocked the view of oncoming traffic - The Council and the railway agreed that alterations had to be made - However, nothing more was done - Eleven months later, Wise's vehicle entered the junction and struck Stovin's motorcycle - Stovin sued Wise and the Council for damages in negligence - Stovin based the claim against the Council on, inter alia, breach of its concurrent common law duty to maintain the high­ways - The House of Lords dismissed the claim against the Council.

Cases Noticed:

Dorset Yacht Co. v. Home Office, [1970] A.C. 1004 (H.L.), dist. [paras. 11, 72].

Goldman v. Hargrave, [1967] 1 A.C. 645 (P.C.), dist. [para. 16].

East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v. Kent, [1941] A.C. 74 (H.L.), folld. [paras. 20, 82].

Anns v. Merton London Borough Council, [1978] A.C. 728; [1977] 2 W.L.R. 1024; [1977] 2 All E.R. 492 (H.L.), consd. [paras. 20, 82].

Hedley Byrne & Co. v. Heller & Partners Ltd., [1964] A.C. 465 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 21].

Caparo Industries v. Dickman et al., [1990] 2 A.C. 605; 108 N.R. 81 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 22].

McLoughlin v. O'Brian, [1983] A.C. 410 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 22].

Yeu et al. v. Hong Kong (Attorney Gen­eral), [1988] A.C. 175; 82 N.R. 321 (P.C.), refd to. [para. 22].

Canadian National Railway Co. et al. v. Norsk Pacific Steamship Co. and Tug Jervis Crown et al., [1992] 1 S.C.R. 1021; 137 N.R. 241, refd to. [para. 23].

Sutherland Shire Council v. Heyman (1985), 157 C.L.R. 424 (Aust. H.C.), refd to. [para. 24].

Donoghue v. Stevenson, [1932] A.C. 562 (H.L.), consd. [paras. 24, 71].

Parramatta City Council v. Lutz (1988), 12 N.S.W.L.R. 293, refd to. [para. 38].

Secretary of State for Education and Science v. Tameside Metropolitan Bor­ough Council, [1977] A.C. 1014 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 40].

Peabody Donation Fund Governors v. Parkinson (Sir Lindsay) & Co., [1985] A.C. 210 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 47].

Murphy v. Brentwood District Council, [1991] 1 A.C. 398; 113 N.R. 81 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 47].

P1 et al. v. Bedfordshire County Coun­cil, [1995] 2 A.C. 633; 185 N.R. 173 (H.L.), consd. [paras. 47, 97].

X (Minors) v. Bedfordshire County Coun­cil - see P1 et al. v. Bedfordshire County Council.

Just v. British Columbia, [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1228; 103 N.R. 1; [1990] 1 W.W.R. 385; 64 D.L.R.(4th) 689; 41 B.C.L.R.(2d) 350; 18 M.V.R.(2d) 1, consd. [paras. 47, 107].

Rowling v. Takaro Properties Ltd., [1988] A.C. 473 (P.C.), consd. [paras. 47, 93].

Jones v. Department of Employment, [1989] Q.B. 1 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 47].

Hamlin v. Invercargill (City), [1996] 2 W.L.R. 367; 194 N.R. 16 (P.C.), affing. [1994] 3 N.Z.L.R. 513 (C.A.), consd. [paras. 47, 105].

Invercargill City Council v. Hamlin - see Hamlin v. Invercargill (City).

Swanson and Peever v. Canada (1991), 124 N.R. 218; 80 D.L.R.(4th) 741 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 50].

Swanson Estate v. Canada - see Swanson and Peever v. Canada.

Nottinghamshire County Council and Bradford Metropolitan Council v. Secre­tary of State for the Environment, [1986] A.C. 240; 64 N.R. 241 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 51].

R. v. Secretary of State for the Environ­ment; Ex parte Nottinghamshire County Council - see Nottinghamshire County Council and Bradford Metropolitan Council v. Secre­tary of State for the Environment.

Kent v. East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board, [1940] 1 K.B. 319, consd. [para. 71].

Hargrave v. Goldman (1963), 110 C.L.R. 40 (Aust. H.C.), dist. [para. 72].

McGeown v. Northern Ireland Housing Executive, [1995] 1 A.C. 233; 169 N.R. 226 (H.L.), consd. [para. 77].

Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Trustees v. Gibbs (1866), L.R. 1 H.L. 93, consd. [para. 80].

Allen v. Gulf Oil Refining Ltd., [1981] A.C. 1001 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 80].

Sheppard v. Glossop Corporation, [1921] 3 K.B. 132 (C.A.), folld. [para. 82].

Hill Estate v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, [1989] A.C. 53; 102 N.R. 241 (H.L.), consd. [para. 95].

R. v. Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Pris­on; Ex parte Hague, [1992] 1 A.C. 58; 141 N.R. 161 (H.L.), consd. [para. 97].

Barratt v. North Vancouver (Municipality), [1980] 2 S.C.R. 418; 33 N.R. 293; 114 D.L.R.(3d) 577; 27 B.C.L.R. 182; 8 M.V.R. 294; 14 C.C.L.T. 169; 13 M.P.L.R. 116, consd. [para. 107].

Brown v. British Columbia (Minister of Transportation and Highways), [1994] 1 S.C.R. 420; 164 N.R. 161; 42 B.C.A.C. 1; 67 W.A.C. 1; 112 D.L.R.(4th) 1, consd. [para. 107].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Arrowsmith, Civil Liability, pp. 176 to 185 [para. 34].

Bailey, S.H., and Bowman, M.J., The Policy/Operation Dichotomy - A Cuckoo in the Nest, [1986] C.L.J. 430, generally [para. 34].

Brennan, Gerard, Liability in Negligence of Public Authorities: The Divergent Views (1990), 48 Advocate 842, gen­erally [para. 34].

Buckley, The Modern Law of Negligence (2nd Ed. 1993), pp. 229 to 247 [para. 34].

Craig, P.P., Administrative Law (3rd Ed. 1994), pp. 618 to 632 [para. 34].

Craig, P.P., Negligence in the Exercise of a Statutory Power (1978), 94 L.Q.R. 428, generally [para. 34].

de Smith, Woolf and Jowell, Judicial Review of Administrative Action (5th Ed. 1995), pp. 774 to 782 [para. 34].

Doyle, J.J., The Liability of Public Authorities (1994), 2 Tort L. Rev. 189, generally [para. 34].

Fleming, John G., The Law of Torts (8th Ed. 1992), pp. 146 to 159 [para. 34].

Hogg, 17 Monash U.L.R. 285, generally [para. 34].

Malcolm, David, The Liability and Re­sponsibility of Local Government Au­thorities: Trends and Tendencies, Austr. B.R. 209, generally [para. 34].

Smith and Burns, Donoghue v. Stevenson - The Not So Golden Anniversary (1983), 46 M.L.R. 147, generally [para. 34].

Sopinka, John, The Liability of Public Authorities: Drawing the Line (1993), 1 Tort. L. Rev. 123, generally [para. 34].

Todd, Stephen, The Negligence Liability of Public Authorities: Divergence in the Common Law (1986), 102 L.Q.R. 370, generally [para. 34].

Wade and Forsyth, Administrative Law (7th Ed. 1994), pp. 771 to 783 [para. 34].

Winfield and Jolowicz on Tort (14th Ed. 1994), pp. 78 to 90, 102, 103 [para. 34].

Counsel:

Not disclosed.

Agents:

Not disclosed.

This appeal was heard at London, England, before Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Jaun­cey of Tullichettle, Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead and Lord Hoff­mann of the House of Lords.

On July 24, 1996, the decision of the House of Lords was delivered and the fol­lowing speeches were given:

Lord Goff of Chieveley - see paragraph 1;

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle - see para­graph 2;

Lord Slynn of Hadley, dissenting - see paragraph 3;

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, dissenting - see paragraphs 4 to 64;

Lord Hoffmann - see paragraphs 65 to 116.

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    ...49, footnote 88]. Stovin v. Wise - see Stoven et al. v. Norfolk County Council. Stoven et al. v. Norfolk County Council, [1996] A.C. 923; 202 N.R. 290 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 49, footnote Hill et al. v. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board et al., [2007] 3 S.C.R. 129; 368 N.R. ......
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7 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
    ...49, footnote 88]. Stovin v. Wise - see Stoven et al. v. Norfolk County Council. Stoven et al. v. Norfolk County Council, [1996] A.C. 923; 202 N.R. 290 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 49, footnote Hill et al. v. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board et al., [2007] 3 S.C.R. 129; 368 N.R. ......
  • British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. et al., (2011) 308 B.C.A.C. 1 (SCC)
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    • Canada (Federal) Supreme Court (Canada)
    • February 24, 2011
    ...to. [para. 79]. Stovin v. Wise - see Stovin et al. v. Norfolk County Council. Stovin et al. v. Norfolk County Council, [1996] A.C. 932; 202 N.R. 290 (H.L.), refd to. [para. Barrett v. London Borough of Enfield, [2001] 2 A.C. 550; 243 N.R. 247 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 79]. Sutherland Shire Co......
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    ...& Co., [1991] Ch. 295; [1991] 1 All E.R. 453 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 36]. Stovin et al. v. Norfolk County Council, [1996] A.C. 923; 202 N.R. 290 (H.L.), refd to. [para. Gorringe v. Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, [2004] N.R. Uned. 65; [2004] 1 W.L.R. 1057 (H.L.), refd to. [para......
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