Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co

Home Office V Dorset Yacht Co

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Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co

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Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd is a leading case in English tort law. It is a House of Lords decision on negligence and marked the start of a rapid expansion in the scope of negligence in the United Kingdom by widening the circumstances in which a court was likely to find a duty of care. The case also addressed the liability of government bodies, a person's liability for the acts of third parties that he has facilitated, and liability for omission.


On 21 September 1962, ten borstal trainees were working on Brownsea Island in the harbour under the control of three officers employed by the Home Office. Seven trainees escaped one night, at the time the officers had retired to bed leaving the trainees to their own devices. The seven trainees who escaped boarded a yacht and collided with another yacht, the property of the respondents, and damaged it. The owners of the yacht sued the Home Office in negligence for damages.

A preliminary issue was ordered to be tried on whether the officers or the Home Office owed a duty of care to the claimants capable of giving rise to liability in damages. It was admitted that the Home Office would be vicariously liable if an action would lie against any of the officers. The preliminary hearing found for the Dorset Yacht Co. that there was, in law, a duty of care and that the case could go forward for trial on its facts. The Home Office appealed to the House of Lords. The Home Office argued that it could owe no duty of care as there...
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