Remoteness of damage by Sini @ LexCliq

Remoteness of damage is an interesting principle. Once the damage is caused by a wrong, there have to be liabilities. The question is how much liability can be fixed, and what factor determines it.

Remoteness of Damage

The principle of Remoteness of Damages is relevant to such cases. An event constituting a wrong can constitute of single consequence or may constitute of consequences i.e. series of acts/wrongs. The damage may be proximate or might be remote, or too remote.

A few elaborations of cases would perhaps make it more clear.

  1. Scott v. Shepherd:

‘A’ threw a lighted squib into a crowd,  it fell upon ‘X’. In order to prevent injury to himself, X did the same thing and it fell upon Y. Y in his turn did the same thing and it then fell on B, as a result of which B lost one of his eyes. A was held liable to B. His act was the proximate cause of damage even though his act was farthest from the damage in so far as the acts X and Y had intervened in between.

  1. Haynes v. Harwood

The defendant’s servants negligently left a house van unattended in a crowded street. The throwing of stones at the horses by a child, made them bolt and a policeman was injured in an attempt to stop them with a view to rescuing the woman and children on the road.

One of the defenses pleaded by the defendant was remoteness of consequences i.e. the mischief of the child was the proximate cause and the negligence of the servants was a remote cause.

  1. General illustration

A person is going driving on a road, he hits a girl on the footpath, the girl tumbles on a bicycle breaks her finger, the bicycle man loses his balance and gets in front of a fuel tanker, the tanker to save the man on the bicycle steers left but unfortunately hits the railing to a river bridge and falls into it , the lock of the fuel tank breaks and the oil spills into the river , the driver with the truck drowns.

In the above case:

  • the girl being hit is the direct damage and it is the direct damage caused by the act of A
  • the damage caused to the cyclist is proximately caused by the falling of the girl and is remote to the act of A
  • the damage caused to the truck driver and the loss of material(fuel and fuel tank) is remote to the act of A and proximate to the act of the cyclist. And it is to be noted that the accountability to negligence is made on the assumption that the person is aware of the fact that rash driving can lead to fatalities. (though the expected and the actual results might not be the same).

Now, the starting point of any rule of the remoteness of damage is the familiar idea that a line must be drawn somewhere. It would be unacceptably harsh for every tort feasor to be responsible for all the consequences which he has caused.

Certainly, the question of where to draw the line on recover-ability of consequential losses cannot be answered by a mathematically precise formula. Judges have used their discretion from time to time, and in that process, two formulas have been highlighted:

  1. The test of reasonable foresight
  2. The test of directness

The Test Of Reasonable Foresight

If the consequences of a wrongful act could be foreseen by a reasonable man, then they are not too remote. If on the other hand, a reasonable man could not have foreseen the consequences, then they are too remote. And, an individual shall be liable only for the consequences which are not too remote i.e. which could be foreseen.

The Test Of Directness

According to the test of directness, a person is liable for all the direct consequences of his wrongful act, whether he could foresee them or not; because consequences which directly follow a wrongful act are not too remote.


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