Category Archives: Nuisance

Benning v Wong [1969] HCA 58

ON 3 DECEMBER 1969, the High Court of Australia delivered Benning v Wong [1969] HCA 58; (1969) 122 CLR 249 (3 December 1969).

Per Barwick CJ:

“In the construction of statutes authorizing the performance of works, there are cardinal rules, the observance of which is fundamental to our system of law. Firstly, the statute will not be construed to authorize an interference with common law rights without compensation without unambiguous and compelling language. It is for the Parliament to make its will in this respect plain. It is not for the courts to search out implications which so displace or reduce common law rights. Secondly, a statute only authorizes those acts which it expressly nominates and those acts and matters which are necessarily incidental to the acts so expressly authorized or to their execution. Thirdly, a statute which authorizes the doing of an act or the performance of a work in general only authorizes it to be done in a careful manner. If the authority is to extend to a careless execution of an authorized act, the plainest of language must be used.” (at 256)

“There is no magic in the words “statutory authority”. Whether or not a statute exonerates from a liability in tort, which in the absence of the statute would be incurred, depends on the terms of the statute and their effect in the particular case. The question is always one of statutory construction… The mere fact that a statute makes it lawful for a man to bring something to a place and accumulate it there does not to my mind exonerate him from liabilities which the law imposes in consequence of his doing so…

When a statute authorizes the carrying on of an activity which cannot be carried on without creating a nuisance or doing other harm, the nuisance or harm, to the extent that it is an inevitable concomitant of doing the authorized work, is itself made lawful ; and its occurrence will therefore create no liability, except for such compensation, if any, as is provided for in the authorizing statute or by some other relevant enactment. But, except where Parliament has prescribed the place where and the method by which the work is to be done, the authorized undertaker must in choosing the place, time, manner, method, equipment and appliances for the conduct of his operations, use due skill and care and act reasonably to avoid avoidable harm.” (at 308-9)

“…a person who has to justify his otherwise tortious act by an assertion of statutory authority must show as part of this justification in defence that he did the authorised act skilfully and carefully …” (at 381)

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Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v The Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound No 2) [1966] UKPC 1

ON 25 MAY 1966, the Privy Council delivered Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v The Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound No 2) [1966] UKPC 1 (25 May 1966).

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKPC/1966/1.html

A person is negligent if they fail to prevent a real risk that is reasonably foreseeable. A real risk is one in the mind of a reasonable person “which he would not brush aside as far-fetched”. This does not depend on the actual risk of occurrence.

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