Stansbie v Troman [1948] 2 KB 48

Decorator left house unattended with door unlocked; whether liable when house burgled


Stansbie was decorating at Troman’s home. He was alone at the property and left the house to purchase some wallpaper. He left the door unlocked and was absent from the house for two hours. During his absence, a thief entered the house and stole several items of value. Troman sought to recover the cost of these items from Stansbie.


Stansbie argued there was no duty upon him to keep the house secure against thieves. Certain obligations rested upon him under the agreement with Troman, but it was beyond the scope of these contractual obligations to impose a duty to lock the house when he left it. If the house was unoccupied, he would be under such a duty but Troman’s home was occupied and, therefore, the obligations to secure the property rested with Troman. Even if there was a duty incumbent upon him, the theft was conducted by a third party such that there was a break in the chain of causation, and the losses could not be said to stem from the breach. Troman contended the contractual agreement imposed a duty on Stansbie to take reasonable care regarding the state of the premises when he left them. Stansbie was in breach of duty by leaving the door unlocked, and as a direct result of this breach, a thief entered the property and stole valuable items.


Stansbie was liable for the cost of the stolen items. He was under a duty to take reasonable care when he left the premises unoccupied. Leaving the house unoccupied for two hours with the door unlocked amounted to a failure to take reasonable care and as a direct result, Troman suffered losses for which Stansbie was liable.