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Smith v. Leech Brain & Co. Ltd.

Queen’s Bench Division, United Kingdom
2 Q.B. 405 (1962)


Facts

William Smith worked for an iron works, Leech Brain & Co. Ltd. (Leech) (defendant). Operating a remotely controlled crane, Smith galvanized items by dipping them into a large tank of molten metal. In order to protect its crane operators, whose controls were located just a few feet from the tank, Leech erected a low wall around the tank and also provided a sheet of corrugated iron that crane operators placed between themselves and the wall. The operators’ backs were to the tank as they worked. Thus, they could not see the operation of the crane and therefore relied upon signals from another worker located farther from the tank. Many other galvanizers at the time situated their operators in enclosed, windowed spaces from which they could safely see and perform their work. Leech eventually adopted that practice as well. On August 15, 1950, Smith was working the crane. At one point, he either turned toward the tank or leaned out to see the worker giving him instructions, thereby placing his head outside the iron sheet. A spray of molten metal burned Smith’s lip. When it failed to heal and began to ulcerate, he saw a doctor who diagnosed the wound as cancerous. Smith ultimately died from the cancer’s spread in October 1953. His widow (plaintiff) sued Leech for negligence.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Lord Parker, C.J.)

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