Ogwo v Taylor [1988] AC 431



The defendant had negligently started a fire at his home by using a blow torch on the fascia boards whilst attempting DIY home improvements. The plaintiff, a fire fighter, entered the property wearing protective clothing in order to extinguish the blaze. The fire was successfully put out, however the plaintiff suffered severe burn injuries from scalding steam which resulted from the fire. 


The issue was whether injuries suffered by a fire fighter in the course of fighting a negligently started fire were foreseeable, and additionally whether there was any principle of public policy which prevented a fire fighter from claiming damages for injuries suffered in the course of their work.


The court held that there was no special principle which prevented firemen from claiming damages for injuries which they incurred whilst fighting a fire which had been negligently started. The mere fact that they did this in the course of their work and in the provision of a public service did not automatically render the injuries outside the scope of the defendant’s duties. Moreover, the injuries were foreseeable as the defendant should have known that where a fire was started negligently, the fire brigade would be called and that fire fighters might be exposed to the risk of injury whilst putting it out. This being so, it did not matter that the specific nature or the severity or the injuries incurred in this case was not foreseeable.