The case of Leakey v National Trust [1980] QB 485 concerned the duty of care one owes to their neighbours for hazards. This case also established Goldman v Hargrave [1967] 1 AC 645 applies to English law cases.

Facts of Leakey v National Trust [1980] QB 485

  • Cs’ land was damaged by soil fall and other debris from the D’s land
  • This fall was caused by nature, not due to any intrusion by humans
  • The Ds were aware of the risks for years
  • After legal advice telling them they would not be liable for naturally occurring slides, they did not do anything to prevent them
  • After rainfall, C noticed a crack above her house and offered to pay half the cost of making it safe, after informing the National Trust of it
  • They rejected this
  • There was large fall onto the C’s property; C claimed damages and order for abatement

Issues in Leakey v National Trust [1980] QB 485

  • Was the C correct in ordering for abatement?
  • Was the D liable even if the fall was caused by nature?

Held by the Court of Appeal

Appeal dismissed. The National Trust were liable, following the Privy Council’s decision in Goldman [1967]. The D will be liable where they are aware of the risk, and do not act with reasonable prudence to remove the danger.

Lord Justice Megaw

On Goldman [1967], Megaw LJ stated:

  • “We in this court are not bound by that decision, as we should have been bound if their Lordships had been sitting as an Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. But there can be no suggestion that the Board regarded the law of Western Australia, on the issues which they decided, as differing in any way from the law of England.” [508]

The judgment in Goldman [1967] developed on the law of land, there is now a duty of care on neighbours – it was not until O’Callaghan [1940] to be confirmed binding in this area [515]

  • “”… a general duty upon occupiers in relation to hazards occurring on their land, whether natural or man-made.” That change in the law, in its essence and in its timing, corresponds with, and may be viewed as being a part of, the change in the law of tort which achieved its decisive victory in Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932]”
  • “House of Lords decision in Sedleigh-Denfield v. O’Callaghan [1940] A.C. 880, … the change as affecting the area with which we are concerned was expressed or recognised in a decision binding on all English courts”

Scope:

  • “in Goldman v. Hargrave [1967] 1 A.C. 645, a removal, or at least a powerful amelioration, of the injustice which might otherwise be caused in such a case by the recognition of the duty of care. Because of that limitation on the scope of the duty, I would say that, as a matter of policy, the law ought to recognise such a duty of care.” [524]

The duty of care required by the occupier “is a duty to do that which is reasonable in all the circumstances, and no more than what, if anything, is reasonable, to prevent or minimise the known risk of damage or injury to one’s neighbour or to his property.” [524]