This article has been written by Tanya Gupta, a student pursuing BA LLB from Ideal Institute of Management and Technology and School of Law, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.  This article focuses on the brief explanation of the case Smith v. Leech Brain & Co. (1961) 3 AII ER 1159.


This is an English tort law landmark case related to the concept of negligence.

Equivalent Citation

[1962] 2 QB 405


Lord Parker CJ

Decided In



Queen’s Bench Division

Relevant Law

Law of Torts




Mr. Smith employed in a factory owned by the Leech Brain (defendant). Mr. Smith employed as a galvanizer whose role was to remove articles from a tank of molten metal (roughly 400 degree Celsius) using a crane. His duties included using a crane to lift metal items and immerse them into a tank of molten zinc. The crane had a shield to protect the operator from the hot metal.

One day whilst operating the crane, Mr. Smith inadvertently put his head outside of the shield and his lip was burnt by some spitting molten metal. The burn was treated but did not heal. He eventually developed cancer and died 3 years later. 

Issue Before the Court

The issue raised before the Queen’s Bench Division was whether the employers could be liable for the full extent of the burn and cancer that had developed as a result or would a person’s predispositions matter in the award of damages.

Ratio of the Case

As it is found that the burn was a negligent action on the part of Leech Brain as they did not provide an ample safety, and it at least partially led to the development of cancer, due to which he died 3 years and therefore the defendant was held liable. For action in tort, you take a plaintiff as he or she comes- the fact that they have a condition that led to more damages than normal is not a factor in determining the damages.

Decision of the Court

 The Court held that the burn was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence and this resulted in the death. The defendant was liable for his death. It was not necessary to show that death by cancer was foreseeable, nor that an ordinary person would not have died from the injury. Lord Parker stated that the eggshell skull rule applies and taking the victim as you find them has always been the established law and this was affected by the ruling in the Wagon Mound case. He concluded that this case was covered by the orthodox principle that a defendant must take his victim as he finds him.

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