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Jolley v. Sutton London Borough Council

House of Lords
[2000] UKHL 31



In 1987, a boat and trailer were abandoned on the grounds of council flats (public housing) occupied by the council for the London Borough of Sutton (Council) (defendant). The boat and trailer were left exposed in an area where children played. They swiftly rotted and deteriorated. In December 1988, the Council placed a sticker on the boat, indicating that it was dangerous, should not be touched, and would be removed within seven days. Despite complaints made by residents to the Council, the boat and trailer were not removed. Justin Jolley (plaintiff) and Karl Warnham noticed the boat in the summer of 1989. In February 1990, the boys decided to repair and paint the boat so that they could use it. Jolley was 14 at the time. Using a jack and props made of other materials, the boys hoisted the boat up in order to work underneath it. Over the course of a few months, they attempted to fix holes in the hull. On April 8, 1990, Jolley was working beneath the boat when it fell onto him, breaking his back and rendering him paraplegic. The accident occurred when the boat tumbled from the jack and other props. It was not apparently caused by the boat’s derelict condition. Jolley sued the Council. After a trial, the judge found in favor of Jolley but reduced his damages by 25 percent for contributory negligence. The Court of Appeal reversed the finding of liability on the ground that the injury exceeded the scope of reasonable foreseeability because it was only foreseeable that the derelict condition of the boat would cause minor injury to children playing on it. Jolley appealed to the House of Lords.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Steyn, L.)

Concurrence (Hoffman, Lord)

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