• In the case of case of The Oropesa 1943 p32, it was found that the death of two seamen were directly caused by the negligence of the Oropesa.
  • A key takeaway is to break the chain in causation, the action had to be unwarrantable, a new cause which disturbs the sequence of events, something which can be described as either unreasonable or extraneous or extrinsic [25]

Facts of the Case

  • Two steam vessels the Manchester Regiment (M.R) and the Oropesa (O)., collided during a storm
  • M.R, badly damaged but with a hopeful master, sent his crew in two boats to the O., and roughly one and a half hours after the collision, the master decided to go himself to the O and confer with the master of O to confirm plans.
  • The master of M.R launched a lifeboat with sixteen other men but with the weather worsening, the boat never reached the O.
  • Nine men died and the MR sank.
  • M.R sought an action against O.

Issues in The Oropesa 1943 p32

  • Who was to be held financially liable for the deaths of crew members.
  • Had the master of M.R acted reasonably taking onboard the extreme circumstances to minimise a novus actus interveniens. If this was the case, a claim would be struck out or reduced.

Held by Court of Appeal

  • It was held that the master of the M.R had acted reasonably in the emergency and that the death was not a result of a novus actus interveniens but directly caused by the collision.

Lord Wright:

  • In Summers v. Salford Corporation 20 , a woman cleaning a window was injured because the sash cord broke. That is far removed from the facts with which we have to deal [39] here, but it involves the same principle. Assuming, as was held in that case, that there was a breach of duty to her, the mere fact that no harm would have happened to her if she had not been cleaning the window was immaterial because she was doing something which was reasonable and in the ordinary course of events. If the master and the deceased in the present case had done something which was outside the exigencies of the emergency, whether from miscalculation or from error, the plaintiffs would be debarred from saying that a new cause had not intervened. The question is not whether there was new negligence, but whether there was a new cause. I think that is what Lord Sumner emphasized in The Paludina 2.
  • “To break the chain of causation it must be shown that there is something which I will call ultroneous, something unwarrantable, a new cause which disturbs the sequence of events, something which can be described as either unreasonable or extraneous. or extrinsic. I doubt whether the law can be stated more precisely than that.”