Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club (1933): A case analysis
Case name & citation: Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club (1933) 1 K.B. 205
The bench of judges: Scrutton, Greer, Slesser L. JJ.
Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal, UK law
Year of the case: 1933
What is the case about?
Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club is one of the leading cases that rests on the maxim ‘volenti non-fit injuria’ or the defense of consent.
Facts of the case (Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club)
The plaintiff was a spectator at a car racing event. The track on which the motorcar race was going on belonged to the defendants. During the race, a collision between two cars occurred, one of which came onto the place where spectators were watching the race, thereby injuring the plaintiff.
No incident of such kind had occurred in the previous years.
The injured spectator brought up an action for negligence against the defendant company, alleging that the premises were not made adequately safe for the spectators. No adequate warning of the dangers was given either.
Can the defendant company be held liable for negligence?
To what extent are the defendants liable for incidents not foreseeable?
When a person consents to the imposition of some harm on himself, he has no remedy for it in tort law. In other words, if the plaintiff willingly chooses to bear some harm, he cannot complain about it, and his consent acts as a good defense against him. No one can enforce a right that he has willingly renounced or abandoned.
For example, you cannot sue someone for trespass if you invite them to your home, nor can you sue a surgeon after submitting to a medical procedure because you have expressly consented to these actions. Similarly, a person who agrees to the publication of defamatory material about himself cannot bring an action for defamation.
Express or implied consent to suffer
The consent to suffer may be expressed or implied. For example, when you are submitting to a surgical operation, it is an example of express consent.
Furthermore, many a time, the consent can be implied or inferred from the conduct of the parties as was seen in Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club case. In the instance case, implied consent was found because the spectator (the plaintiff) was deemed to be agreeing to any hurt, which was likely to take place in the normal course of the game.
However, another important point may be noted here. If a deliberate injury is caused to another player or if a spectator suffers injury on account of a negligent act of the players or if a surgeon negligently performs an operation, the defense of ‘volenti’ cannot be taken. In other words, the act causing the harm should not go beyond the limit of what has been consented to.
Judgment of the Court in ‘Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club’
Following the principle of ‘volenti non-fit injuria’, it was held that the plaintiff impliedly undertook the risk of such injury. Because some dangers are inherent in the sport and the spectators had purchased the tickets for the race.
Moreover, the defendants were not insurers against an accident that could not reasonably be expected to happen.
The Court held that it was the responsibility of the defendants to ensure that the track was as safe as reasonable care and skill could make it, but they had no obligation to guard against risks that were not reasonably foreseeable, or those which were inherent in the sport.
Due to the fact that no accident of this sort had occurred before, it could not be considered to be reasonably foreseeable, and the defendants were not obligated to mitigate the risk of an incident that no amount of due diligence would have disclosed.
Therefore, the defendants were not held liable.
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