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Caparo Revisited - Paul Jarvis, 6KBW College Hill

14/05/18. In Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2015] EWCA Civ 15; [2014] PIQR P14), a case that concerned an action in negligence brought by a woman who was injured in the street during an attempt by police officers to arrest a man suspected of drug dealing, Hallett LJ held that in deciding whether the officers owed the woman a duty of care the three-stage test in Caparo (Caparo Industries plc v Dickman [1990] 2 AC 605, 617 – 618) “applies to all claims in the modern law of negligence” (para.40). In her judgment, and applying the third limb of that test, it was not fair, just or reasonable to impose a duty on the police to an individual such as Mrs Robinson because the police owed a wider duty to the public to prevent and detect crime, and that wider duty was incompatible with the existence of a narrower duty to prevent harm to members of the public when acting in compliance with that wider duty.

Dissatisfied with that outcome, Mrs Robinson appealed to the UK Supreme Court (Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2018] UKSC 4; [2018] 2 WLR 595). Lord Reed held that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the three-stage test in Caparo applies to all claims in the modern law of negligence “mistakes the whole point of Caparo, which was to repudiate the idea that there is a single test which can be applied in all cases in order to determine whether a duty of care exists” (para. 21). Instead, the correct approach to determining whether a duty of case exists in any given case is to look to the established authorities and, in novel situations, to develop the law “incrementally and by analogy” with those authorities...

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