Patrick operates and owns a factory involved in making ginger beer. In an attempt to ensure that the beer stayed fresh for longer than it used to, Patrick invented a new bottling machine. In September, the testing of the bottles was successful, and the first delivery took place. Patrick suspected that the new bottling system might be having some defects. His truck driver noted the defect and informed his boss on the same issue. Patrick took the initiative to of sending the machine for repair to collect the defect.
The producer did not recall the delivered ginger beer in the supermarkets stocking his products. Glen is a supermarket who unpacked the bottles of the Ginger beer into the shelves one after delivery and went home for a night. At midnight, Patrick receives a call from the fire brigade official informing his of a fire that broke at his supermarket. The fire caused a damage of about $2 million worth of goods.
The fire was at first termed as electric fire, but, after investigations, the source of the strategy was a defect of the Ginger beer bottles. The bottles exploded, and pieces of the bottle hit electric cables, which in turn, spark into fire. Investigations established two main cause of the explosion. In the process, of producing new bottles, the bottling machine had a defect, and trapped air in the bottles. This increased chances of the bottle to explode when filled with beer. On the other hand, Glen exposed the bottles in direct sun heating them and hence increased chances of explosion when the bottle cold especially at night.
The legal issues:
Glen wants to sue Patrick against his actions that led to the loss and destruction in his supermarket. The key issue is to establish whether he can succeed in his action and on what grounds.
The relevant law
The relevant law in this case is the tort of negligence. An act qualifies to be negligence when there is failure to act with due care, which any person, under normal circumstances would have acted. The tort of negligence states that a prudent person should act with reasonable care after considering the potential negative effect on other people (Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks 1856). There four elements to the tort of negligence including the duty of care, breach of duty, injury, damage and lastly the damage should not be too remote. These elements are particularly essential in determining the liabilities of tort.
The duty of care is the first and most essential element in a tort of negligence. In this case, a person is deemed to act reasonably in order to avoid any foreseeable harm to the other people or an individual. These people can be in a significant relationship or indirectly related by proximity. In determining the duty of care, there are various factors addressed to establish whether a person owed a duty of care. The person prudently ought to have foreseen the harm likely to be caused by his act to the other people. There must be a relationship whether direct or proximity between the two parties. Lastly it must be fair, reasonable, and just that the person was able to take reasonable care.
After the determination of the duty of care, the next step and element of tort of negligence is breach of the duty of care. A person breaches a duty of care if knowingly exposes the other person or persons into a risk. Every person has the responsibility to avoid acts which can cause unreasonable risk to others and their properties. A person who fails to uphold this reasonable duty turns to have breached the duty of care. For example, in the case of Bolton v. Stone in 1994 where Miss Stone was struck on the head by a strayed Cricket ball. Miss Stone got an injury, but, the court decision was that the defendant could not be liability for the injury. The defendant could not have foreseen the damage, and hence he did not breach a duty of care.
A person can only be held liable for breach of duty of care only if his act caused a harm or loss directly to the other person. A person can also be held liable if he omits to undertake an act.
This would directly have protected the other party. Such a person must own a duty to perform a service or carry a duty to the other person. On the other hand if a person also increased the already existed harm he will be liable to the extent of the increased harm. In order to be compensated for the injury under tort of negligence, the person injured must prove that he suffered loss as a result of negligence of the accused. For example, incase of physical injury, the harmed can produce medical prove and cost incurred for the treatment. On the other hand, in a case of a destroyed property the plaintiff can prove the he suffered loss a result of not using the property damaged.
When the court establishes that there was a duty of care and breaching took place and that the injured suffers loss as a result of the act of the accused the allocating of damages is inevitable. This is the monetary value compensation as calculated and established by the court. The main aim of is to put the injured person back to the initial position he was before the outcome that led to the loss. Determination of these damages depends on the opinion of the judge and the facts presented by the injured.
There are three types of damages available for the injured. The specified damages have the quantified amount of loss suffered as the act of the accused. This damage covers a given time as the court may find necessary. For example, the lost of wages, medical bills and the damaged property.
The general damaged are in this case not monetary quantified in nature. These are the damages awarded the injured to compensate for pain and suffering. On the other hand, when the injured cannot determine the actual loss he or she suffered the court can determine the amount on behave of the injured.
When the accused undergoes punishment by the court as a result of the damages they caused the injured is not compensated. These damages referrer to punitive damages and judges apply these damages when the accused is guilty of intentional and reckless when performing his duty.
Application of the law:
Patrick and Clen had a business relationship as a producer and a trader of ginger beer. Their case at hand qualifies to be a tort of negligence. Patrick owned a duty of care to the owner of the supermarkets where his products take display and sold. He has the duty to ensure that his product does not cause harm, damage or loss to the third parties. This duty includes informing the clients of any danger posed by the product so as they can prepare themselves and avoid losses or harm.
When he discovered that the bottling machine had a defect it was his duty to repair the machine which he did. On the other hand, his driver informed him of the defected, but, he never took the initiative to inform the esteemed supermarkets owners. In this case, he omitted a duty of care and hence it can be termed as a breach of duty of care to the supermarkets owners including Clen.
As a result, of Patrick’s omission of duty to inform Clen and other supermarkets owners the bottles of the ginger beer exploded and disrupted the electric cables and eventually caused electric fire in the Clen’s supermarket. The fire caused damages and Clen lost about $ 2 million worth of goods. This may represent the basic loss suffered, but, the loss may be more than indicated.
Clen can succeed in his action against Patrick; if it is clear that Patrick owed him a duty of care to informing him in advance about the dangers of the new bottles. He omitted the duty by not informing his of the dangers or recalling the defected bottles. Clen can prove that he suffered loss as a result of Patrick’s negligence. He suffered a loss of $ 2million as a result of the fire, and if it were not for the defective bottles he would have suffered the loss. These are the grounds upon which Clen can argue in order to succeed on his action against Patrick.
On the other hand, Clen has to prove the exposing the bottles on sun were not the principal cause of the explosion. This can be one ground that the defendant can use to defend himself against accusation. He must come out strongly to undermine this fact as material contributor to the bursting of bottles.
Patrick can defend himself against the accusation by Clen on three main grounds. He can argue that he was not aware of that the defect would have caused the damage. In this case, he tries to establish that the damage caused was not foreseeable to him and that he could not have avoided the loss caused in Clen supermarket. The landing of the bottle pieces to electric was beyond any ones control and hence he owed no duty to prevent it.
The second defense that Patrick is that contributory defense where Clen is a contributor to the loss he claimed to suffer. This is an indication that he exposed the bottles of beer on sun for long before they busted at night. On the other hand, Patrick had distributed these bottles of beer to other supermarkets and no any other supermarket owner had complained or suffered. This can be an indication than despite the defect the plaintiff did not take the due care to avoid the concurrency of the damage. This will reduce the amount he ought to compensate Clen or fully relief against the accusation.
Lastly, he can prove that the defect of the bottles was not the direct cause of the fire. The fire resulted from electric cables after the bottles exploded. The cable seems to be exposed without proper protection and hence any thing could have caused the damage. The case can then be discarded on the basis of remoteness of the cause.
This case is contributory negligence, both the plaintiff and the defendant bears responsibility. Patrick ought to have recalled the ginger beer or inform the supermarket owner of the defects the moment he got the information. Clen, on the other hand, exposed the bottles on hot sun that is a contributor to the explosion. Patrick has to compensate Clen for the damages caused but not fully. In this case, the court can decide on the amount he is liable.