The Wagon Mound (No. 1) is a landmark case in the field of tort law that established the principles of foreseeability and remoteness of damage in negligence claims.
In this case, the defendant, Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd., owned a ship that was docked in Sydney Harbor in 1951. While workers were welding on another ship nearby, sparks and molten metal from their work fell into the water and ignited oil that was floating on the surface. The fire quickly spread and caused significant damage to the plaintiff’s wharf and ships.
The plaintiff brought a claim against the defendant, alleging that they were negligent in allowing the oil to escape and in failing to take proper precautions to prevent the fire from spreading. The defendant argued that the damage caused was not foreseeable, and that they could not have foreseen that their actions would cause the type of damage that was suffered.
The court ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiff, establishing the principle that a defendant may be liable for all consequences of their negligent actions that were foreseeable at the time. The court held that the damage caused by the fire was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s actions, and that they should have taken steps to prevent it from occurring.
This case established the concept of “reasonable foreseeability” in determining the extent of a defendant’s liability for negligence, and it remains an important precedent in the law of torts