Baker v Willoughby [1970] AC 467

Law of Tort – Negligence – Causation – Remoteness of Damage – Damages – Novus Actus Interveniens


The complainant, Mr Baker, was a pedestrian who had been knocked down by the defendant driving a car in September 1964. The negligent driving by the defendant caused serious injury to his left leg, which left him with mobility problems and unable to work in the labour market as he did before. This led to reduced earnings. In November 1967 and before the trial, Mr Baker was an innocent victim of an armed robbery at his workplace and suffered several gunshot wounds to the leg. This was the same leg affected by the car accident and it was subsequently amputated.


The defendant argued that the shooting incident had broken the chain of causation and the injuries from the road accident no longer existed. The issue was whether the shooting was a new intervening act or if the defendant should be accountable for all losses suffered.


The defendant was held to be liable for losses and reduced earnings, even after the shooting and amputation of the leg. The court took the view that if Mr Willoughby had not been negligent in his driving to begin with, the complainant would not have lost his leg. Thus, he was still liable as if the shooting had never happened and must compensate Mr Baker for losses after the amputation. It was stated that when there are two accidents that are consecutive and contribute to the same injury, the original defendant would be liable for the overall injury.