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Re Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co, [1921] 3 KB 560.


Polemis and Boyazides are ship owners who chartered a ship to Furness.

Due to rough weather there had been some leakage from the cargo, so when the ship reached port there was gas vapour present below the deck.

Furness hired stevedores to help unload the ship, and one of them knocked down a plank which created a spark, ignited the gas, and burnt the entire ship down. (derp)

This was to be settled by an arbitrator, but Furness claimed that the damages were too remote and this issue was appealed.


Is it necessary that the specific type of damage caused be reasonably foreseeable in order for a defendant to be liable for damages?


A negligent actor is liable for all direct results of the negligent act, even if they were not foreseeable before the accident.


Counsel for Furness tried to claim that although the act was negligent, the fact that the outcome was not foreseeable should negate the liability. However, the court unanimously rejects this argument and say that when an action is negligent the actor is liable for any direct outcomes from the negligent act, even if they were not foreseeable. Further, the proximity of the act to the outcome is close enough here to create a duty.


Appeal dismissed.

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