Smith v Leech Brain [1962] 2 QB 405

Key point

  • This case established the thin skull rule in negligence which states that a particular weakness of the victim that contributed to his injury cannot be a defence to negligence even if it is not reasonably foreseeable


  • The deceased was splashed on the lip by molten metal due to employer’s negligence
  • The resulting burn activated a pre-cancerous condition and he died from cancer
  • His widow brought a claim for negligence against the employer

Held (High Court, Queen’s Bench Division)

  • Though death from the cancer was not reasonably foreseeable as the employer had not known about his underlying condition, the employer was liable for it in negligence

Lord Parker CJ

  • “If a man is negligently run over… it is no answer to the sufferer’s claim for damages that he would have suffered less injury… if he had not had an unusually thin skull or an unusually weak hear”