This article is written by Gaurav Lall pursuing BBA LL.B. (Hons.) at United World School of Law.


In Haynes v Harwood [1935] 1 KB 146, case the Defendant left a horse-drawn van unattended in a crowded street. The horses bolted when a boy threw a stone at them. A police officer tried to stop the horses to save a woman and children who were in the path of the bolting horses. The police officer was injured.


Court of Appeal of England and Wales.


Greer, Maugham, and Roche LJJ.

Decided On


Equivalent Citation

Haynes v. Harwood, [1935] 1 KB 146

Brief Facts and Procedural History

The plaintiff was a police constable on duty inside a police station, located in a busy street, often attended by many people, including children. The defendants owned a two-horse van which was left unattended by its driver in the same street. The driver had put a chain on one of the wheels of the van that was subsequently broken. For some reason, supposedly because a stone was thrown at the horses, they bolted along the busy street alongside with the van. The police constable saw them from the police station, got out and managed to stop them but sustained injuries, in respect of which he claimed damages. The plaintiff claimed damages in this respect through the King’s Bench in 1935. The bench ruled in favour of the plaintiff as opposed to the defendant. The defendant (Harwood) filed for an appeal in the Court of Appeal, which was later dismissed.

Issues before the Court

When someone knowingly puts himself or herself in danger to protect others, is the negligent party liable for damages suffered in the protection effort 

Whether the principle of volenti non fit injuria will be applied?

Ratio of the Case

The doctrine of the assumption of risk does not apply where the plaintiff has, under exigency caused by the defendant’s wrongful misconduct, consciously and deliberately faced a risk, even of death, to rescue another from imminent danger of personal injury or death, whether or not the person endangered has owed a duty of care by the plaintiff. The plaintiff, a policeman saw a horse running loose in the street among children. 

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeal held the defendant liable for Haynes’ loss. On the novus actus interveniens argument, they held there had not been a break in the chain of causation between the defendant’s act and claimant’s loss.

Rule/ Case Law

“Negligence, in order to give a cause of action, must be the neglect of some duty owed to the person who makes a claim. In the case, if the duty was owed to, among others, if the plaintiff is affected by the want of care of the Negligence of the defendants that is the Negligence of which the plaintiff can avail himself as a cause of action.” -Greer, LJ

Novus Actus Interventions is a Latin term for a new intervening act which breaks the chain or the connection between the wrong. In Lynch v Nurdin, undoubtedly, there was a Novus actus interventions  namely, them is the conduct of the boy who started the horse; but it was held that none the less the accident, and the damage, could be served as a result of the defendant’s wrongful act because it was to be predicted that children were bound to be mischievous and that anyone who invites or gives an opportunity to the mischievous children to do a dangerous thing cannot escape liability on the ground that he did not do the wrong but that the mischievous children did it. 

Volenti non-fit Injuria is a common law doctrine which states that if someone willingly places themselves in a position knowing degree of harm, will be not able to bring a claim against the other party in tort. 

Critical Analysis

“Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care or doing something which a reasonably prudent person would not do.”

The defendants are guilty of negligence under the virtue of leaving the horses unattended in a busy street. The defendant in the first place owed a duty of care to his neighbour’s, which he breached as and when the horse carriage was left unattended and untied. The resultant damage was caused to the plaintiff when he got injured while trying to save the woman and the children so endangered. Also, the defendant could anticipate the damage that could have incurred if some mischievous act would have been done on the horse. Hence, the Court held that there was negligence on the part of the defendant. Presenting his side as against the plaintiff’s defense, the defendant argued that volenti non-fit Injuria could be applied to justify his stand because the police constable willingly involved himself in an act which would inevitably have caused some injuries. The Court, in turn, held that there was evident Negligence on the part of the defendant, for the plaintiff owed a general duty to the public and hence the principle of volenti non-fit Injuria would not apply. The Court determined whether the plaintiff had acted reasonably with the context of Brandon v. Osborne, Garrett & Co. Ltd. It should be noted that Greer L.J. went further than Finlay J. His decision seems to suggest that a policeman or anyone, and still more a policeman, has a general duty to the public to preserve life and property.

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