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Jebson v Ministry of Defence

26 June 2000
The issues

Drunkenness: to what extent other parties have a responsibility towards a person they know or should know is drunk

The facts

The Claimant was a soldier. He was being carried in a military lorry with other soldiers. They were drunk. He fell from the lorry whilst it was moving and suffered serious injuries. At first instance the Claimant failed on the basis that he was the author of his own misfortune. The Claimant appealed. The soldiers were known by the Defendants to be going out on a spree and the Defendants had provided transport to return them to barracks.

The decision

i) The Defendant owed a duty of care to the passengers on the lorry to take all due care as far as possible and to carry them safely.

ii) It was in issue as to whether that duty extended to an obligation to supervise drunken soldiers and whether the Claimant’s accident was foreseeable.

iii) It was not enough for it to be reasonably foreseeable for the Claimant to succeed. It was also necessary to show that it was fair, just and reasonable for a duty of care to be imposed.

iv) Ordinarily an adult was not entitled to rely on his own drunkenness as giving rise to a duty on others to exercise special care.

v) That rule was not invariable. It was not proper to apply it in circumstances where an obligation of care was assumed or impliedly undertaken in respect of a person likely to be drunk.

vi) In these circumstances, the Defendant should have realised that the soldiers would be returning “in high spirits and in an inebriated state”. There was therefore a particular duty to ensure that transport was reasonably safe to avoid the possibility of rowdy behaviour – it was not. The size of the gap above the tailgate and the fact that the driver could not see what was happening behind made it clear that the “transport package” was plainly deficient. It was foreseeable that injury would occur and that that injury might include the danger that someone would fall from the vehicle.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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