Menlove built a hay stack near the edge of his property with a "chimney" to prevent the risk of fire. He was repeatedly warned that it constituted a fire risk anyway, but said that he would "chance it". The stack ignited, and burnt down his neighbour, Vaughan's, cottages. Vaughan seeks damages in negligence. At first instance Menlove was held liable because he failed to act reasonably "with reference to the standard of ordinary prudence". He appealed stating that he should not be held liable for not possessing "the highest order of intelligence".
- Should the defendant be held liable because he failed to act reasonably with respect to the objective standard of intelligence, or should his personal intelligence be considered?
Tindal, writing for a unanimous court, states that to allow the judgment of each individual to be based upon their own personal level of intelligence would be subjective and too variable. The court "ought to adhere to a rule that requires in all cases a regard to caution such as a man of ordinary prudence would observe".
This is the first instance of the test of the "reasonable person" being affirmed as the correct method used in negligence.