Aspects of the law affecting construction projects.

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Task 1

  1. Brown v Smith [1984] 2AER456 – Brown is the name of the plaintiff [the person or company filing the legal action].  V = versus [against] Smith [the defendant].1984 is the year the judicial precedent was set. 2AER456 is Volume 2 of one of a series of Law Reports AER being All England Law Reports followed by page number 456.

  1. Defences available to a person being sued in an action for tort.

  1. Volenti nin fit injutia – meaning consent negates the risk – ‘there is no injury to a willing person’.  If someone is aware of and has agreed to accept the risk then they cannot at a later date sue if that risk occurs.  This occurs when the plaintiff knew of the risks, was aware that the defendant was negligent and continued to accept the risks.  An example of this is Ashton v Turner and another 1980 where Ashton, the plaintiff, and the 2 defendants planned a robbery using one of the defendant’s cars.  All went drinking prior to the burglary but Ashton was injured in an ensuing chase.  The plaintiff sued both defendants for negligence, Turner for dangerous and drunken driving and the other defendant for allowing Turner to derive without insurance.
  2. Statutory Authority -  a number of states authorise acts which, but for the power conferred by the statute would constitute a tort.  Some public limited companies such as gas, electricity and water suppliers have the right to enter premises for inspection and other official purposes, as have officers of the local authority under the Public Health Act, 1936.  They cannot therefore be sued for trespass although it may be considered a nuisance at common Law.  When an act is authorised by statute it would be assumed that all future consequences would have been taken into account.  For example in the beginning of the railway system it was not always possible to prevent the escape of spark therefore the railway company could not be held responsible for any fire caused by the escape of sparks.  In Fisher v Ruislip UDC [1945] Ruislip council had been authorised to provide air raid shelters in or on the highway under the Civil Defence Act 1939.  Fisher, the plaintiff, collided with an unlit shelter at night whilst driving carefully, was injured and sued for negligence.  It was held that the council would be held liable for injury or damage caused by their negligence in exercising statutory powers unless the statute that authorised the act excluded the duty of taking care in its performance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  3. Inevitable accident – where a situation could not have been anticipated and avoided by reasonable care by the defendant.  This is a usual form of defence for actions against trespass.  National Coal Board v Evans [1951] where the NCB had had placed an electric cable under land without advising the landowner.  The landowner employed Evans to dig a trench which resulted in the cable being damaged.  It was held that Evans was not liable as they were not aware of the cable and were not to blame for allowing it to be damaged by the excavator.        
  4. Contributory negligence – although not a complete defence shows that the plaintiff may have contributed to his loss or injuries by his own negligence ie not wearing a seat belt in a car accident, not wearing safety clothing issued and recommended by the employer.
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  1. Common Law within the construction industry.  Common law forms the basis of all law that is applied in England; it is also known as ‘evolved’ law as it has developed as a result of custom and judicial decisions as distinct from the law that is made by governments.  It is now being developed by the courts and taken over by legislation such as the Sale of Goods Act 1979.  The most popular form of Common Law in the construction Industry is right of way on land.  For example if a builder wanted to build on ...

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