Haley v London Electricity Board 1965 AC 778 251

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Haley v London Electricity Board [1965] AC 778



The defendant’s employees dug a hole in a pavement. When they left the area on their break, they realised that they had not been provided with the necessary materials to fence off the area. They thought it would be sufficient to leave an upright shovel near the hole as a warning to any pedestrians who passed through. The claimant, however, was blind and so did not see the warning. As a result, he fell into the pit and sustained injuries.


Haley brought an action against the London Electricity Board in the tort of negligence.


Establishing the tort of negligence involves establishing that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care, which they breached in a manner which caused the claimant recoverable harm. To establish a breach of any duty owed, the claimant must establish that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position.

The issue was whether the defendant was in breach of their duty, given that they argued that they had taken sufficient steps to enable normally-sighted people to be safe. They argued that it was not foreseeable that a blind person would enter the area without assistance.


The defendant was held to be in breach of their duty of care.

The extent to which the harm was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s actions was indeed a crucial factor when determining how a reasonable person would behave in the circumstances.

However, the court was not convinced that it was unforeseeable that a blind person would walk down the street. If it was sufficiently foreseeable that a disabled person would be at risk of harm, the court held, the defendant was obliged to take reasonable steps to protect them from harm, not just able-bodied persons.


The House of Lords held in favor of the claimant. Since it was

reasonably foreseeable that a blind person might walk down the pavement, the defendant had to take reasonable steps to safeguard the claimant from the danger. They did not take adequate steps to protect a blind person (such as by putting a fence in the way), so they breached their duty of care. The House of Lords concluded that the defendant had done enough to warn ordinary persons of the dangerous trench. In contrast, the House concluded that the LEB

had not done enough to warn blind persons.

Lord Reid said:

The evidence shows that an obstacle attached to a heavy weight and only nine inches above the ground may well escape detection by a blind man’s stick and is for him a trap rather than a warning.

The case therefore fell on whether the reasonable person would have in mind a blind person when putting protection around the trench. The House concluded that it was likely, or at least foreseeable, that a blind person would walk past a trench, and would have contemplated this when putting protection around the fence.

In the words of Lord Reid:

In deciding what is reasonably foreseeable one must have regard to common knowledge. We are all accustomed to meeting blind people walking alone with their white sticks on city pavements. … There is evidence in this case about the number of blind people in London and it appears from Government publications that the proportion in the whole country is near one in 500. By no means all are sufficiently skilled or confident to venture out alone but the number who habitually do so must be very large. I find it quite impossible to say that it is not reasonably foreseeable that a blind person may pass along a particular pavement on a particular day.

Because the LEB failed to do this, the House held they failed to take reasonable care. The reasonable person would have put more permanent fencing around the trench which would be detectable by the stick of a blind person.REFERENCE CASE:1. [1],2. [2]


  1. simplestudying.com/taylor-v-glasgow-city-council-1922-1-ac-44/">Taylor v Glasgow City Council
  2. simplestudying.com/donoghue-v-stevenson/">Donoghue v Stevenson
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