Thin skull rule

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Eggshell skull, In criminal law and the law of tort, the thin skull rule states that you must take your victim as you find him. It means that the defendant cannot escape liability if the victim suffers more harm than would otherwise be expected due to, for example, an underlying medical condition, or unusually sensitive disposition. In legal causation, the thin skull rules operates in such circumstances to prevent the chain of causation from being broken.

In the case of Smith v. Leech Brain & Co.,[1] an employee in a factory was splashed with molten metal. The metal burned him on his lip, which happened to be premalignant tissue. He died three years later from cancer triggered by the injury. The judge held that as long as the initial injury was foreseeable, the defendant was liable for all the harm.

The term implies that if a person had a skull as delicate as the shell of an egg, and a tortfeasor who was unaware of the condition injured that person's head, causing the skull unexpectedly to break, the defendant would be held liable for all damages resulting from the wrongful contact, even if such damages were not reasonably foreseeable, or the tortfeasor did not intend to cause such a severe injury.

Intervening cause is typically an exception to the Eggshell Skull rule. If an injury is not immediate, but a separate situation agitates the injury, the tortfeasor is not liable. For example, if A assaults B, and B is hauled away on a stretcher, where he is struck by lightning, even though A's actions had caused B to be at the place and time of the bolt of lightning, the Eggshell Skull rule does not apply.

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