• In the case of Spencer v Wincanton Holdings 2009 EWCA CIV 1404 concerning negligence, it was found that a former employee who had suffered an accident for which the employer was liable had his leg amputated as a result and then had a second accident because he only had one leg was further liable for the employee’s injuries.

Facts of the Case

  • The appellant (W) appealed against a decision that it (the employer) was liable for the injuries the respondent former employee (S) had sustained in an accident he had suffered years after an accident he had suffered at work.
  • S injured his knee during a small incident. This injury developed so far that after three years, his leg needed amputating from the knee. At this time, W did not dispute the liability in relation to the consequences of the accident, including the amputation.
  • Eight months post amputation, S filled his car up at a petrol station without asking for help or steadying himself using sticks or his prosthesis. S tripped and caused further damage which later confined him to a wheelchair permanently.
  • S had previously issued proceedings against W for the first accident and the damages in that claim were assessed after S had the second accident.
  • W rejected the increase in the size of the claim towards the second incident however the judge found that it was liable for the increase, subject to a one-third reduction to reflect S’s contributory negligence.
  • W appealed and argued that the second incident had been the result of S’s conduct and that it should not be held liable for the second incident.

Issues in Spencer v Wincanton Holdings 2009 EWCA CIV 1404

  • The issues surrounding this case concern how far contributory negligence on behalf of S’s actions should affect a claim in negligence and whether an employer could be held liable for further injuries after admitting liability for the first.

Held by Court of Appeal

  • The appeal failed and was dismissed, and W held liable for the second injuries against S due to the second accident being a ‘real consequence’ of the first.

Sedley LJ; Longmore LJ; Aikens LJ

  • The question before the court was at what point the law regarded a consequence as being too remote. It was found that assessing remoteness in terms of foreseeability was problematic. It was found that there was no good reason to go against a decision in McKew v Holland & Hannen & Cubitts (Scotland) Ltd [1969] 3 ALL E.R 1621 [1969] 11 WLUK 96 regarding S’s actions as unforeseeable. However, the apportionment of blame spoke clearly against a finding either that S had acted reckless or that it was unfair to treat the chain of causation as surviving the second accident. The amputation, like the second accident had been an unexpected but real consequence of the first accident, albeit one to which S’s own misjudgment had contributed.”