Duty of Care and the Public Policy issue.

Essay by callmeobiwanUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, January 2013

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The case of Mitchell v Glasgow City Council1, hereinafter referred to as 'Mitchell v Glasgow CC' is a fascinating scenario in which the principles of the duty of care as expounded upon in the seminal case of Caparo Industries plc v Dickman2, hereinafter referred to as 'Caparo v Dickman', are tested to the extreme. This matter also references public policy issues, e.g. whether it was equitable that a public authority should be held liable for the criminal acts of a third party3 or that the matter arose out of the negligent omissions of the defendant, including others. I shall be examining them in due course.

The Principles of Duty of Care

As has been mentioned earlier, the case of Caparo v Dickman laid out the tests for the usage of the Duty of Care doctrine, with assistance from prior influential cases like Donoghue v Stevenson, Anns v Merton London Borough Council and McLoughlin v O'Brian.

The case of Caparo v Dickman involved financial issues where Caparo Industries was involved in the takeover of Fidelity, a company that was in poor financial health. Dickman were the auditors for Fidelity, involved in the making and publication of the annual accounts, without which Caparo might not have taken the actions they did. Upon a successful takeover of Fidelity, Caparo discovered that it was in a worse financial position than had been revealed by the directors and shareholders. Caparo then sued for damages, upon which it was held in the House of Lords that there was no responsibility of the duty of care.

Lord Bridge then proceeded to state in his ratio decidendi that:

"What emerges is that, in addition to the foreseeability of damage, necessary ingredients in any situation giving rise to a duty of care are...