The Court of Appeal recently decided that there is a triable issue concerning an alleged duty of care owed by a London Based shipping sub agent to a worker injured while engaged in the dismantling of an obsolete merchant ship in Bangladesh.

 

The claimant had been engaged by a Bangladesh based company through a London based shipping sub agent to work as a labourer in the dismantling of an old merchant ship in a shipyard near Chittagong in Bangladesh. While working, he suffered a fall inside the ship as a result of which he died. Health and safety checks were almost non – existent in the shipyard. Accidents and injuries were common.

 

The deceased`s family issued proceedings on behalf of the claimant`s estate for personal injury damage and loss in the English courts against the London based sub agent. They did so on the basis that because the agents were aware of the appalling state of health & safety in the (Chittagong) shipyard, they owed the claimant a duty of care for his safety while working in the yard.

 

The sub agent applied to strike out the claimant`s claim on grounds that they had insufficient connection (or “remoteness of damage”) to the shipyard`s activities to owe any duty of care to the claimant and that the claimant therefore had no reasonable grounds to proceed with his claim.

 

The Court of Appeal rejected the application and allowed the claim to proceed to trial. The court  commented that in doing so, it potentially stretches the question of remoteness of damage to its limits although they considered that the claimant had a good claim.

 

In examining the question of remoteness of damage, the court will decide whether the sub agent failed to take sufficient care for the safety of claimant in the shipyard and then whether the accident was reasonably foreseeable to them. If the court decides against the sub agent on both counts, it will impose liability on them for the accident.

 

This case is important because it may enable people or families of people who suffered a similar accident to make a claim. It is important to remember that if the accident resulted in death, the family must first obtain a grant of probate before starting a claim.


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