Heaven v Pender (1883) 11 QBD 503

Key point

  • The concept of a general duty of care was first proposed in this case


  • C was painting a ship when one of the ropes holding up the staging broke, C fell and was injured
  • D was the dock owner that installed defective rope

Sir Brett MR

  • Whenever a reasonable person would foresee that harm would be caused if he did not use reasonable care and skill he owes a duty in tort


  • This was the first formulation of a general principle for finding a duty of care but the two other judges rejected the general principle and confined their reasoning too the facts of the case
  • Lord Esher tried again to develop a general principle in obiter in Le Lievre v Gould [1893] 1 QB 491 by adding the test of physical proximity: ‘if one man if near to another, or is near to the property of another, a duty lies upon him not to do that which may cause a personal injury to that other, or may injure his property’