East Suffolk RBC v Kent [1941] AC 74

Key point

  • As a general rule, a public authority is not liable for omissions, only for acts


  • Breach of sea wall led to flooding of C’s property
  • The local council (D) undertook repair of the wall but took an unreasonably long time
  • C sued D for losses resulting from the flooding

Held (House of Lords)

  • D was not liable for negligence; there was no assumption of responsibility other than a duty not to cause additional damage

Lord Porter

  • Where damage was not caused by a positive act but by an omission, there is no breach of duty
  • The only duty is to avoid causing damage, not to prevent future damage or shorten incidence of damage
  • Loss suffered was due to the original breach, which continued due to D’s omission to close it