IRAC Analysis: Haynes v. Harwood [1936] 1 KB 146


This article has been written by Mustafa Chitalwala., a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune.


 In the Court of Appeal of England & Wales
Case Haynes V. Harwood [1936] 1 KB 146
Decided In 1935



 Haynes, A Policeman


Harwood, A Carriage Owner

Bench  Greer, Maugham and, Roche LJJ



Harwood (the defendant) was the owner of a two-horse carriage, which was being driven and managed by his servant. In the course of employment; the servant, to collect the delivery receipt after unloading the order, left the horse carriage unattended and untied on a busy street during the rush hour. The street was crowded with children coming out of the nearby school. The horses were agitated due to some of the boys throwing stones at the horses. After being hit the horses bolted down the street in a fit of fear, running a considerable distance without anyone interfering with them until they got opposite the police station. Haynes (the plaintiff), a police constable, was on duty inside the police station on the street in which, at the material time, were many people, including children. Seeing the defendants ‘runaway horses with a van attached coming down the street, he rushed out. Moreover, found an older woman in grave danger, standing in the contact area of the approaching horses; he also saw some children who would be in grave danger if nothing was done by him to stop the horses. At high risk, endangering his life, he was able to get hold of one of the horses and eventually stopped them, sustaining severe personal injuries in consequence.


The plaintiff claimed damages in this respect through the King’s Bench in 1935. The bench ruled in favour of the plaintiff as opposed to the defendant. The defendant (Harwood) filed for an appeal in the Court of Appeal, which was later dismissed.


ISSUE – The issues raised are :

  1. Whether there was negligence in part of the defendant.
  2. Whether ‘Novus actus interveniens’ can be applicable to this case as a defence.
  3. Whether the maxim volenti non fit injuria is applicable as a defence or not.


The Court considered the following while deciding on the case:

  1. “Negligence, in order to give a cause of action, must be the neglect of some duty owed to the person who makes a claim. In the case, if the duty was owed to, among others, the plaintiff- if he is one of a class affected by the want of care of the Negligence of the defendants that is the Negligence of which the plaintiff can avail himself as a cause of action.” -Greer, LJ
  2. Novus Actus Interventions is a Latin term for a new intervening act which breaks the chain or the connection between the wrong. In Lynch v Nurdin[1], Undoubtedly there was a Novus actus interventions – namely, them is the conduct of the boy who started the horse; but it was held that none the less the accident, and the damage, could be treated as a result of the defendant’s wrongful act because it was to be anticipated that children were bound to be mischievous and that anyone who invites or gives an opportunity to the mischievous children to do a dangerous thing cannot escape liability on the ground that he did not do the wrong but that the mischievous children did it.[2]
  3. Volenti non-fit Injuria is a common law doctrine which states that if someone willingly places themselves in a position where harm might result, knowing that some degree of harm might result, they are not able to bring a claim against the other party in tort.[3]


“Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care or doing of something which a reasonably a prudent person would not do.”

The defendants are guilty of Negligence under the virtue of leaving the horses unattended in a busy street. The defendant in the first place owed a duty of care to his neighbor’s, which he breached as and when the horse carriage was left unattended and untied. The consequential damage was caused to the plaintiff when he gets injured while trying to save the woman and the children so endangered. Also, the defendant could foresee the damage that could have incurred if some mischievous act would have been done on the horse. Hence, the Court held that there was negligence on the part of the defendant. Presenting his side as against the plaintiff’s defense, the defendant argued that volenti non-fit Injuria could be applied to justify his stand because the police constable voluntarily involved himself in an act which would inevitably have caused some injuries. The Court, in turn, held that there was evident Negligence on the part of the defendant, for the plaintiff owed a general duty to the public and hence the principle of volenti non-fit Injuria would not apply. The Court determined whether the plaintiff had acted reasonably with the context of Brandon v. Osborne, Garrett & Co. Ltd. It should be noted that Greer L.J. went further than Finlay J. His decision seems to suggest that a policeman-or that anyone, and still more a policeman, has a general duty to the public to preserve life and property.


The defendant was held liable. As it was clearly foreseeable that if a horse were left unattended in a busy public place and is disturbed by the same, a prudent citizen, particularly a police officer on duty, would try to capture it and get injured doing the same. The defendant could not raise the plea of volenti non-fit Injuria as the act of the policeman came under the purview of his general duty to the public.


[1] [1841] 1 Q.B. 2



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