Gorris v Scott [1874] LR 9 Exch 125

The scope of a statutory duty to prevent damages or losses of a certain kind.


A ship owner, the defendant, had contracted to carry a number of sheep from a foreign port to England. Some of the sheep were washed overboard and lost. The claimant alleges that the loss of the sheep was due to the ship owner’s neglect to comply with the Contagious Diseases Act 1869, of which one order specified that sheep from foreign ports ought to be divided into pens of specific dimensions and designates the floorings of such pens.


The question arose as to whether the ship owner’s failure to comply with the order under the Contagious Diseases Act 1869 allows the claimant to recover liability for the loss of some sheep overboard.


The Court held that, in the case of a statutory duty giving rise to damages, the scope of the duty is to be deduced in accordance with the object and context of the statute. Accordingly, a person cannot claim for losses that fall outside the scope of that which the statute intends to protect. The purpose of the Contagious Diseases Act 1869, as deduced by the construction of the language and context of the statute, was to prevent the spread of contagious diseases amongst animals. Although the ship owner neglected to comply with the order concerning the storage of the sheep in a certain manner under the 1869 Act, the sheep were lost at sea and the damage sustained was unrelated to contagious diseases. Thus, the claimant could not recover for the loss of the sheep.