Heaven v Pender

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Citation: Heaven v Pender, Trading As West India Graving Dock Company (1883) 11 QBD 503

This information can be found in the Textbook: Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 372-7


Background facts

  • The Defendant [Pender] owned a dry dock.
  • The Plaintiff [Heaven] was painting a ship docked at the Defendant's dock. He was employed to do so by the shipowner (no contract with Defendant).
  • The Dock was defective and the Plaintiff was injured while painting the ship.
  • The Plaintiff sought to sue the Defendant for the defective dock.

Legal issues


  • In a scenario where ordinary care or skill is required to prevent injury to the plaintiff, a duty of care exist even in the absence of a contract.
    • Without an implied contract or fraud like in previous cases.
  • If you open a shop, you are sending out the message that if he pleases, he may enter your shop to buy something. It is the shop owner’s duty, while he is on their premises, that no harm comes to him.
  • Since there are so many disparate causes of action, a major proposition should be adopted: "Whenever one person is by circumstances placed in such a position with regard to another... whereby he may cause danger of injury... a duty arises to use ordinary care and skill to avoid such danger."
  • Here, the danger was evident from the circumstances.
  • Dismisses Langridge v Levy as unsatisfactory these days.
  • The Plaintiff wins on the basis that he was owed a duty of care which was breached.


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