The case analysis is written by Darshika Lodha, a first-year student of Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University. In this case, the author briefly explained the case of Smith v. Charles and Sons.
It is an action for damages caused to the plaintiff by the dropping, from the roof of the defendant’s premises, of a film advertising device, called a banner, which is an object made of cloth inside a wooden frame.
AIR 1946 CAL. 175
Facts of the Case
The defendant is the director of a motion picture show company. The part of the house on the street is one-storey. On the roof of this house, overlooking the street, stands a sky sign, which is more or less a permanent structure, consisting of a steel frame fixed in an upright position by means of masonry and iron fittings. Galvanized sheeting of iron is on this plate. The galvanized sheeting covers the entire surface of the container. The defendant received a license from the municipality of Calcutta to erect this sky sign. Banners were projected from the symbol of the moon. There was no contrivance in this sky sign that would keep these banners firmly and safely in place – no loops, holes, grooves, flanges or screws. The banners were fixed against the galvanized sheet by means of cheap coir ropes, which were fastened to the four corners of the wooden frame containing the pattern of the fabric, and these ropes were then brought over and under the metal frame of the sky sign and knotted to some angles and iron rods. The lower part of the wooden frame of the banners did not rest on the field.
On 5 July 1943, a banner in the wooden frame dropped from its spot on the complainant. He was hit by a wooden frame on his head, as he suffered a cut on it, which the medical reports identified as significant and blowing profusely.
Issues before the Court
- If the defendant, the occupant bordering the public thoroughfare, owed some responsibility to the complainant who was a passerby?
- Will the term res apply to ipsa loquitur?
- If the climate disturbances of the 5th of July 1943 were a serious storm at all?
Ratio of the Case
“Professor Winfield, following Pollock, described the act of God as” the action of natural forces so unforeseen that no human foresight or ability could reasonably be expected to predict it.” Greenock Company v. Caledonian Railway [(1917) A.C. 556] Lord Parker said: (1868) 330 [Rylands v. Fletcher] saved the question that the act of God may not have offered a shield, and this question was resolved in the affirmative in (1876) 10 Ex. 255 [Nichols v. Marsland] in which the act of God was defined by the decision of the jury, but I have some questions as to whether that decision was correct.
10 Ex. in (1876) 255 There were some artificial lakes on the territory of the defendant, which had been created by damming up a creek. Thanks to the unprecedented flooding, which was greater and more destructive than any witness could recall, the river and the lake breached their banks, and the water overwhelmed the plaintiff’s land and swept away some of the county bridges. The plaintiff, who brought a suit on behalf of the county, charged that the defendant was liable on the grounds of the provision of (1868) 3 H.L. 330, but the Court of Auditors ruled that the defendant should not be held liable for an exceptional act of a kind that could not have been reasonably expected.
In Montreal City v. Watt and Scott Ltd. [(1922) 2 A.C. 555] It was decided that it was the responsibility of the municipality to build sewers to allow them to cope with the amount of water that could be required from time to time over the years.
Decision of Court
“The Chief Observer of the Weather Office of the Metereological Department testified that there was not much rain on the evening of 5 July and that the wind speed was moderate. This weather was not uncommon in the monsoon season. This proof puts an end to the plea of God’s intervention. In not taking precautions against winds that are not uncommon during the monsoon months, the defendants were prima facie negligent, and the fact that the banners dropped in the storm, which was not above 27 miles per hour in velocity, goes a long way to disprove all the elaborate facts of the defendant concerning the moment the banner in the sky sign buys 3 strands of new coir wire rope. I can not accept this testimony, because if it were valid, the banner would not have fallen.”
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