• In the case of Lamb v Camden LBC [1981] 2 All E.R. 408, it was held that where property damage occurs through actionable nuisance or negligence and the property is thereby left unoccupied, further damage done by invading squatters is too remote to form part of the damages.

Facts of the Case

  • C owned a house that suffered cracks walls and became unsafe to live in following the breakage of a water main. This occurred due to work by D to replace a sewer.
  • C, in America at the time, arranged for her interests to be looked after. In summer 1974 she came back for six weeks and made preliminary arrangements for repairs to be done. C then returned to America.
  • A group of squatters, having seen the unoccupied and unfurnished property, invaded it in October 1974. C’s solicitors got under order 113 to remove them. Boards were then put up to deter future squatters.
  • In summer 1975, a second invasion occurred, with a shifting population of squatters moving in and out. Electricity and gas to the property were cut. The squatters then ripped out the central heating and other installations, stealing them.
  • In 197, the police arrested the squatters on grounds of larceny. While they were at the police station, C’s agents made the property secure to prevent future invasions.
  • Repairs to the property finished in 1979. C held D responsible for all expenses due to their negligence or a nuisance created by them in their effort to replace the sewer. D admitted liability for nuisance.
  • Damages were left to an official referee. Over £50,000 was expense due to the subsidence caused by D, but nearly £30,000 was the cost of repairing malicious damage caused by the squatters. The latter cost was contested.


  • Could D be held liable for damage done maliciously by a third party if the third party’s presence only occurred due to D’s nuisance?

Held by the Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

  • Appeal was dismissed. The likelihood of squatters moving in was the wrong test to apply in the case, and as such D could not be held liable for the squatter’s actions.

Lord Denning M.R.

  • Lord Reid’s test in Dorset Yacht Co v Home Office [1970] Appeal Cases 1004-holding defendants liable for the criminal or tortious actions of a third party present because of the defendant’s negligence-should not be applied. The ‘very likely’ standard would extend the liability of government institutions beyond all reason.
  • The factors of duty, remoteness and causation are all devices for the courts to limit the range of liability for negligence.
  • It was C’s responsibility to have the squatters removed. It has not been suggested that D had such an obligation. D did not occupy the house and was never asked to remove them. Leaving the house unoccupied and unfurnished created the reasonably foreseeable risk that squatters would enter. The issue of money would not have prevented C from making the house secure.
  • “On broader grounds of policy, I would add this: The criminal acts here are usually covered by insurance. By this means the risk of loss is spread throughout the community. It does not fall too heavily on one pair of shoulders alone. The insurers take the premium to cover just this sort of risk and should not be allowed, by subrogation, to pass it on to others. Just as in Stansbie v Troman, the householder was no doubt insured against theft of the diamond bracelet. She should have recovered its value from the insurers and not from the decorator whose only fault was that he forgot to put the latch down. It might be decided differently today. It is commonplace nowadays for the courts, when considering policy, to take insurance into account” [30].
  • That C was uninsured is her misfortune.