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The duty of care of Public Authorities: Too Much, Too Little or About Right?

|Speeches|Lord Dyson

” Personal injury law has become increasingly complex in recent years. Some of the issues that have troubled the courts have been peculiar to personal injury litigation. The law reports are replete with tricky points relating to the assessment of damages in that area of the law. But questions of wider application have also arisen in personal injury litigation. Take, for example, the vexed issue of causation, which was once thought of as being essentially one of fact, otherwise known as a “jury question”. Some of the most teasing of the causation questions that have arisen in recent times have been decided in personal injury cases. And of perhaps even more general importance is the fundamental issue of whether a duty of care is owed and the whole question of immunity from suit. This too has as much relevance to personal injury practitioners as it does to those who practice in other areas of litigation. I wish to devote my lecture to this topic, with particular reference to the circumstances in which a public authority owes a duty of care in negligence. This is a huge subject in a developing area of the law. There are many cases, and, as is so often the case, many of them cannot be reconciled with each other. This is fertile territory for academics; but less attractive for lawyers trying to advise their clients and to hard-pressed fist instance judges who have to make sense of and apply the law…”

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