Jones v Boyce (1816): contributory negligence in emergency situations.

Areas of applicable law: Tort law – Contributory negligence – Negligence.

Main arguments in this case: What happens when it is an emergency and a person injures himself by acting or doing something he may not have done in a normal situation? Can he be liable for contributory negligence? 

The fact of the case: The claimant was travelling as a passenger in the defendant’s horse carriage when one of the reins broke. The carriage was going downhill and the claimant believed that it was going to crash and with that fear, jumped off the carriage and broke his leg. The carriage in fact did not crash and if the claimant had not jumped off, he would not have been hurt. The claimant brought an action against the defendant for negligence. The defendant claimed that the claimant was contributorily negligent.

The court held in favour of the claimant as it was reasonable that a person in the claimant’s situation would have reacted the same way i.e., would have jumped off the carriage, if that person truly believed that the carriage was going to crash regardless of whether it did so or not.

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