Robert Addie & Sons (Collieries) Ltd v Dumbreck [1929] AC 358

Tort law – Negligence – Trespassing


A four-year-old boy was killed as a result of being crushed by the wheel of a haulage system which belonged to a colliery company. The field in which the system was situated in was surrounded by a large hedge, which was essentially ineffective due to the large gaps in it. The grounds were used as a playground by young children, as well as a short cut to a local railway station and this was something that the colliery company was aware of and then often tried to warn them away. The father of the boy brought a claim against the company for the injury that his son sustained during the accident. 


It was argued that the wheel was dangerous but appealing to children and the danger created by this was not effectively mitigated. It was important for the court to establish whether the colliery owed a duty of care to protect against the danger caused by the equipment on their site, which was not effectively guarded or, whether the child was trespassing on the land of the colliery.


It was held by the court that the boy was effectively a trespasser on the premises of the colliery and this was done so at his own risk. Therefore, the company owed no duty to protect him or trespassers generally from harm, despite the innocence of the child's trespass in this case. On this basis, the court found in favour of the colliery in that there was no legal duty for them to protect against the danger that the machinery created.