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Overseas Tankship were charterers a freighter ship named the Wagon Mound which was moored at a dock. Miller owned two ships that were moored nearby. At some point during this period the Wagon Mound leaked furnace oil into the harbour while some welders were working on a ship. The sparks from the welders caused the leaked oil to ignite destroying all three ships. Miller sued seeking damages.
- Should the defendant be liable for damages which were not foreseeable?
Lord Reid, in discussing the concept of negligence, says that there are two kinds of negligence cases:
- those where the risk of the result should not be regarded because it was thought to be impossible or too far-fetched to reasonably pay attention to; and
- those where there was a real and substantial risk.
He states that the occurrence in Bolton v Stone does not fall under the first classification, as it was foreseeable. He says that a reasonable man would only neglect such a risk if he had a valid reason for doing so – the costs, for example. He says that the Bolton decision found that it is justifiable not to take steps to eliminate a real risk if the risk of it is so very small that a reasonable person would think it right to neglect it.
There are two kinds of negligence cases:
- those where the risk was thought to be so remote as not to pay attention to; and
- those where the risk was real and substantial.