Gough v Thorne (1966): contributory negligence and children

Areas of applicable law: Tort law – Duty of care –  Contributory negligence.

Main arguments in this case: Children may not be contributorily negligent depending up on their age.

When it comes to decide whether a child can be contributorily negligent or not, a court would take into account the age of the child and whether a child of that age could have acted or taken the precaution which are in questions. However the younger the child, the more reluctant the court would be to find a child contributorily responsible.

The fact of the case: A group of three children of the age of 17 to 10 were waiting to cross the road when a lorry pulled up and the lorry driver beckoned the children to cross the road. The children followed the gesture and while crossing the road one of the children, the 13 years old girl, who failed to check for any oncoming traffic was hit by a car which had overtaken the lorry.

The High Court ruled that the girl was partially to blame and was contributory negligent as she should have lent forward and checked if the road was safe to cross. The Court of Appeal overturned the decision and found that the girl was not contributorily negligent, In its decision the Court of Appeal said that as a child who was only 13 years old would not be expected to take the precautions and act on them like a grown up person in such scenario.

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