Heaven v Pender

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Heaven v Pender
Citation(s)(1883) 11 QBD 503

Heaven v Pender (1883) 11 QBD 503, Court of Appeal) was an English tort law case, which foreshadowed the birth of the modern law of negligence.


The case occurred when an owner of a dry dock supplied ropes that supported a stage slung over the side of a ship; the stage failed because the supplied ropes had been previously burned. The failure of the stage injured an employee of an independent contractor working in the dry dock; the dry dock owner, the defendant, had failed in his duty of care to give reasonably careful attention to the condition of the ropes, prior to employing them to hold up the stage. The defendant was found liable.


Court of Appeal[edit]

The Master of the Rolls, William Brett, 1st Viscount Esher, suggested that there was a wider duty to be responsible in tort to those who might be injured if ‘ordinary care and skill’ was not exercised.

Brett MR's obiter views would later be expressly adopted by Lord Atkin in the House of Lords in Donoghue v Stevenson when the general concept of a tortious duty of care in negligence was established under English law.

House of Lords[edit]

The House of Lords was content to decide the case on the basis a duty of care was owed by an occupier of land (the owner of the dry dock) to invitees (the employees of the contractor who were on the site to the economic benefit ultimately of the dry dock owner).