Spencer v Wincanton Holdings [2009] EWCA Civ 1404

Key point

  • In the tort of negligence, if the victim’s own act had contributed to his injury, that act is not a novus actus interviens (break in causation) unless it was highly unreasonable


  • C injured his leg and had it amputated due to D employer’s negligence
  • C tried to fill his car with petrol despite being handicapped, tripped and fell and became wheelchair bound


  • Was D liable for the additional disability?

Held (Court of Appeal)

  •  Yes, D was held liable for additional disability, but damages were reduced by 1/3 for contributory negligence

Sedley LJ

  • The level of unreasonableness of the victim’s own act must be very high to break the chain of causation
  • Where it is not high enough, courts will apply the defence of contributory negligence
  • That level was not reached here