THE EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY(DEFECTIVE EQUIPMENT) ACT 1969

Publication Date01 Jan 1970
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1970.tb01253.x
AuthorTerence Ingman
STATUTES
THE ENPLOYER’S LIABILITY (DEFECTIVE EQUIPMENT) ACT
1969
THE
Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Bill
1969
is law
at last. After
a
two-year parliamentary
struggle
the Bill was
steered through the Commons by
Mr.
Hugh Brown (assisted by the
Government in the shape of the Solicitor-General), and through
the Lords by
Lord
Morris of Kenwood. The
‘‘
struggle
was not
the result of any organised opposition, but
of
the traditional
diffi-
culty
of
finding parliamentary time for
a
Private Member’s Bill.
Mr.
John Cronin introduced a similar Bill
in
1968,
but it lapsed;
this time Government co-operation has helped towards success.
The Act, which came into force
on
October
25,
1969,
seeks to
add to an employer’s common law duties with regard to defective
equipment by making him liable also for the defective manu-
facture of equipment.
In
other words,
it
seeks to reverse the
decision
of
the House of Lords in
Davie
v.
New
Merton Board Mills
Ltd.,’
although
no
one pretends that its effect ends there.
In
Davie’s
case, a workman was injured by a defective tool
supplied to him by his employers. The defect was latent;
it
was
mused by negligent heat treatment during the manufacturing pro-
cess. The employers had bought the tool from an apparently
reputable supplier. At first instance, Ashworth
J.
held the
employers liable.2 Relying
on
dicta of Lord Maugham
in
Wilson’s
and Clyde Coal
Co.
v.
English
and of Goddard
L.J.
in
Paine
v.
Colne Valley Electricity
CO.,~
his Lordship held that an employer
could not escape liability for ‘breach of
his
personal obligation (to
take reasonable care to provide safe equipment) by proving that he
had taken reasonable are to buy an apparently sound tool from a
reputable supplier.
On
appeal, the decision was reversed by Parker and Pearce
L.JJ.,
Jenkins
L.J.
di~senting.~ The majority in the Court of
Appeal were of the opinion that the employers had sufficiently dis-
charged their duty by buying from a reputable supplier a tool whose
latent defect they had
no
means
of
discovering.
On
a further
appeal, the House of Lords unanimously affirmed the decision
of
the Court of Appea1.O
In
the words
of
Lord
Reid
:
‘‘
. .
.
Vicarious liability is well recognised and
I
see
no
diffi-
culty in principle in extending vicarious liability beyond
liability for those who
are,
strictly speaking, servants, but it
would,
I
think, be going far beyond anything reasonable to
2
[1957]
9
Q.B.
368.
4
[1938] 4
All
E.R.
803,
808.
1
[1959]
A.C.
604.
3
[1938]
A.C.
57,
88.
8
[1959]
A.C.
604.
7
Ibid.
at
p.
642.
5
cisml 1
Q.B.
aio.
70

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