This is a case of Byrne (P), an ordinary citizen walking in front of a flour shop which was under the ownership of Boadle (D) when a barrel containing some baking materials fell from the defendant’s window, directly hitting the plaintiff and making him sustain serious personal physical injuries. The plaintiff filed for charges against Boadle before the court under the grounds of negligence of duty.
There were several people who witnessed the incident which caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries, including some of the defendant’s flour shop employees. Aside from the obvious and legal medical services-backed evidences of the injuries sustained from the incident, plus the eyewitness recounts of what happened during the day and instance of the incident, the defendant was unable to present any other form of legal evidence to support his claim. All the eyewitnesses saw was the barrel falling off from the window.
The cause of the barrel going out of the window is still unknown. Because of the plaintiff’s lack of formal and legal evidence to support his claim based on the grounds of negligence of duty, the defendant, Boadle, moved to file for a nonsuit. The court, having recognized the lack of formal and legal evidences of negligence of duty thereof, granted the plaintiff’s motion for nonsuit. The court, however, did not make an absolute decree upon its granting of nonsuit in favor of the plaintiff.
A decrease nisi was issued instead which made the privileges of nonsuit in favor of the plaintiff temporary until all investigations, probes, and trial related to the cause of the incident, particularly the incident wherein a barrel containing flour fell off from the window injuring the plaintiff, Byrne in the process, have been finished . The Court, after having finished all investigations, and eyewitness interviews, reversed the issuance of the nonsuit in favor of the plaintiff based on the grounds that the cause of incident (barrel falling off from the flour shop under Boadle’s ownership’s window), had been proven to be the defendant’s fault, specifically, due to his failure to secure one of the barrels in the upper floor of his establishment. As a result, the barrel rolled over, gained momentum, broke the glass cover and the small wooden fence, and fell over Byrne, the plaintiff, leading to serious physical injuries.
Can a defendant be liable for negligence based solely on account of the type of accident that occurred, without direct evidence of negligence of duty?
Holding and Rule
This was what the case between Byrne (P) and Boadle (D) was all about. The court seemed to have ruled in favor of the defendant when it filed for a motion of nonsuit under the grounds that there is not enough present legal and or formal evidence that could make the court determine whether there really was a negligence of duty that occurred leading to the incident wherein the barrel of flour fell off from the defendant’s establishment’s window hurting the plaintiff, Mr. Byrne, in the process, at least when the motion was filed. In order not to make a ruling mistake, the court granted the defendant’s motion, under a rule nisi basis. Meaning, the court’s approval of the plaintiff’s motion for nonsuit, may only be considered as absolute and legally binding, after meeting certain conditions, which in this case, after proving that the barrel falling off from the flour shop’s window was indeed not caused by negligence of duty. Ultimately, the court ruled out that there was indeed a factor of negligence that caused the accident, making the plaintiff’s nonsuit motion invalid. The court ruled in favor of Byrne under the grounds that there was indeed the presence of the factor of negligence that ultimately led to the accident.
A presumption or theory of negligence can arise from the accident despite the lack of legal and or formal evidence to support it . “A party need not present direct evidence of negligence when the mere manner and facts of the accident show that it could not have happened without negligence on someone’s part” . So, in this case, despite the legal norm that suggests that formal and legal evidences such as video footages and eyewitness recounts of the negligent behavior or act committed or failed to be committed by the subject are required to make someone be liable of negligence, the court can still rule using the outcome of the negligent behavior alone.
In this case, a barrel containing flour could have not rolled out of the flour shop’s window if Boadle made all the necessary precautions to ensure that it would not. The barrel was within the premises of a property owned by the defendant, automatically making it under his care or custody and the barrel falling over the plaintiff can already be considered as a primary evidence of negligence.
Lastly, it is part of Boadle’s duty to make sure that people who are passing by his flour shop would not be injured, in any way, by objects and even people under his control and jurisdiction. In this case, Boadle failed to prove before the court that he was not negligent. Therefore, I support the court’s decision in judging in favor of the Byrne, the plaintiff, despite the fact that it judged based only on the outcome of the incident.
Deakin, S., A. Johnston and B. Markesinis. "Markesinis and Deakin's Tort Law." Oxford University Press (2003).
Duhaine, L. "Legal Definition of Decree Nisi." Duhaime.Org (2011).
Lawnix. "Byrne v. Boadle – Case Brief Summary." Lawnix (2014).