Torts I, Pages 320–321

In re Arbitration Between Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd.

Court of Appeal, 1921

Facts:

Defendants chartered plaintiffs ship to carry cargo including cases of gasoline. While discharging, they dropped a plank into the hold, causing a spark that ignited the gas and completely destroyed the ship.

Procedural History:

The arbitrators held that this damage could not reasonably have been anticipated from the falling of the board. However, some damage might have been anticipated, and thus defendants are liable for the £196,165.

Issue:

Is defendant liable for the harm even though the type of harm wasn't reasonably foreseeable?

Judgment:

Appeal dismissed.

Defendant's Arguments:

  • While the extent of the damage could have been foreseen, the type of damage could not.

  • The damage is too remote and could not be reasonably foreseen as a consequence.

Rule/Holding:

Defendants are liable for all harm they directly cause as long as some harm is reasonably foreseeable.