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CAUSATION AND RISK IN NEGLIGENCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2020

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The UK Supreme Court noted in Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police that the approach to causation in claims based on Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is “looser” than in negligence. While the but-for test is generally applied in negligence, in Article 2 claims “it appears sufficient generally to establish merely that [the claimant] lost a substantial chance” of avoiding harm. The English courts have not always been comfortable with this divergence. In Re E. (A Child) Lady Hale stated that she was “troubled by the rejection of the ‘but for’ test” by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In part this discomfort seems attributable to a lack of detailed exposition as to how the approaches to causation differ in negligence and human rights law. The lack of clarity as to what the “looser” approach consists of is unsatisfactory. Although the reference to causation in Smith was a relatively minor observation in the wider decision not to develop the duty of care owed by the police in negligence to a victim of crime, we cannot appreciate whether the difference in approach is justified without first understanding what the difference actually is. In response, one aim of this paper is to draw together key decisions on causation in the ECHR to identify what the “looser” approach entails and how it differs from the approach in negligence.

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Copyright © Cambridge Law Journal and Contributors 2020

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Footnotes

*

I would like to thank Elizabeth Wicks (Leicester) and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper, they helped improve it immeasurably but any errors remain my own. I would also like to thank participants in the “Crossing Boundaries: Private Remedies for Public Duties” project organised by Francois du Bois (Leicester) and Anton Fagan (Cape Town), the workshops were invaluable in developing this paper. Finally, I would like to thank Katherine Wade (Leicester) and Louise Boon-Kuo (Sydney) for hosting “shut up and write” sessions which facilitated the writing of this paper.

References

1 Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police; Van Colle v Chief Constable of Hertfordshire [2008] UKHL 50, [2009] 1 A.C. 225, at [138].

2 Re E. (A Child) [2008] UKHL 66, [2009] 1 A.C. 536, at [14].

3 Van Colle v Chief Constable of Hertfordshire [2008] UKHL 50, [2009] 1 A.C. 225, at [138].

4 Carmichele v Minister of Safety and Security and Another (Centre for Applied Legal Studies Intervening) 2001 (4) S.A. 938 (CC), at [33].

5 Lee v Minister of Correctional Services 2013 (2) S.A. 144 (CC).

6 Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services (t/a GH Dovener and Son) [2002] UKHL 22, [2003] 1 A.C. 32.

7 Barnett v Chelsea and Kensington Hospital Management Committee [1968] 2 W.L.R. 422.

8 Bonnington Castings v Wardlaw [1956] A.C. 613.

9 See A. Mowbray, “The European Court of Human Rights’ Approach to Just Satisfaction” [1997] P.L. 647.

10 Nolan, D., “Rights, Damages and Loss” (2017) 37 O.J.L.S. 255Google Scholar, at 257–58. In this paper, “damage” is used in the sense defined by Nolan as a certain kind of interference with a protected interest and distinct from “loss” and the idea of being worse off.

11 This is still true, although perhaps carries less force, when damage is treated merely as a condition of actionability.

12 Protocol 14 introduced into Art. 35(3)(b) the admissibility criterion that the applicant must have suffered “significant disadvantage”. In Giusti v Italy (Application no. 13175/03), Judgment of 18 October 2011, not yet reported, at [39], the ECtHR interpreted this criterion more widely than just financial disadvantage, setting out the following factors to take into account: “la nature du droit prétendument violé, la gravité de l'incidence de la violation alléguée dans l'exercice d'un droit et/ou les conséquences éventuelles de la violation sur la situation personnelle du requérant. Dans l’évaluation de ces conséquences, la Cour examinera, en particulier, l'enjeu de la procédure nationale ou son issue” [the nature of the right allegedly violated, the seriousness of the impact of the alleged violation and/or its possible consequences on the personal situation of the applicant. In assessing these consequences, the court will consider, in particular, what is at stake in, or the outcome of, the national proceedings]. See generally Vogiatzis, N., “The Admissibility Criterion Under Article 35(3)(b) ECHR: A ‘Significant Disadvantage’ to Human Rights Protection?” (2016) 65 I.C.L.Q. 185CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Makaratzis v Greece (Application no. 50385/99) (2005) 41 EHRR 49, at [55].

14 Wicks, E., “The Meaning of ‘Life’: Dignity and the Right to Life in International Human Rights Treaties” (2012) 12 H.R.L.R. 199Google Scholar, at 202.

15 R. (on the application of Tainton) v HM Senior Coroner for Preston and West Lancashire [2016] EWHC 1396 (Admin), [2016] 4 W.L.R. 157, at [74].

16 Ibid., at para. [75].

Ibid

17 Osman v United Kingdom (Application no. 87/1997/871/1083) (2000) 29 EHRR 245, at [116]. See V. Stoyanova, “Causation between State Omission and Harm within the Framework of Positive Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights” (2018) 18 H.R.L.R. 309 for discussion of a “real and immediate risk” and the degree of knowledge required by the state.

18 Wright, J., Tort Law and Human Rights, 2nd ed. (Oxford 2017), 197Google Scholar.

19 Napier v Scottish Ministers 2005 1 S.C. 307. See Blackie, J., “Liability of Public Authorities and Public Officials” in Reid, E. and Visser, D. (eds.), Private Law and Human Rights: Bringing Rights Home in Scotland and South Africa (Edinburgh 2013), 241–42Google Scholar.

20 E. v United Kingdom (Application no. 33218/96) (2003) 36 EHRR 31, at [99].

21 Sarjantson v Chief Constable of Humberside Police [2013] EWCA Civ 1252, [2014] Q.B. 411.

22 Ibid., at para. [28].

Ibid

23 Ibid., at paras. [26]–[27].

Ibid

24 Wright, Tort Law and Human Rights, 2nd ed. p. 197.

25 Wicks, “The Meaning of ‘Life’”, p. 202.

26 Sarjantson [2013] EWCA Civ 1252, [2014] Q.B. 411, at [29].

27 Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1989] A.C. 53; Smith [2008] UKHL 50, [2009] 1 A.C. 225.

28 Wright, Tort Law and Human Rights, 2nd ed. pp. 230–31.

29 Tofaris, S. and Steel, S., “Negligence Liability for Omissions and the Police” (2016) 75 C.L.J. 128CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 139–40.

30 Re E. (A Child) [2008] UKHL 66, [2009] 1 A.C. 536.

31 Lord Carswell considered that “it is entirely clear that the behaviour complained of far exceeded the bounds of that which could be associated with any legitimate protest” but used the word “protest” in his judgment since it had been used in so much of the evidence: ibid., at para. [21].

32 Ibid., at para. [14].

Ibid

33 Ibid.

Ibid

34 E. v United Kingdom (Application no. 33218/96) (2003) 36 EHRR 31, at [99].

35 S. Steel, Proof of Causation in Tort Law (Cambridge 2015), 110–11.

36 Fairchild [2002] UKHL 22, [2003] 1 A.C. 32.

37 And the vast number of other mesothelioma victims who would find themselves in the same position.

38 Barker v Corus [2006] UKHL 20, [2006] 2 A.C. 572. Parliament quickly legislated to restore joint and several liability, but only in respect of mesothelioma: Compensation Act 2006, s. 3.

39 Ibid., at para. [35].

Ibid

40 BAI v Durham [2012] UKSC 14, [2012] 1 W.L.R. 867.

41 See Turton, G., Evidential Uncertainty in Causation in Negligence (Oxford 2016), 194201Google Scholar on the idea of risk as damage.

42 Or other disease presenting an analogous evidential gap: Heneghan v Manchester Dry Docks [2016] EWCA Civ 86, [2016] 1 W.L.R. 2036.

43 Lee 2013 (2) S.A. 144 (CC). “Human rights” is used to reflect a right of the same kind as in the English context. The instrument providing for these in South Africa is the Bill of Rights which forms part of the Constitution.

44 “Stretching” is a term adopted in Atiyah, P.S., The Damages Lottery (Oxford 1997), 3265Google Scholar.

45 Minister of Correctional Services v Lee 2012 (3) S.A. 617 (SCA), at [64].

46 Carmichele 2001 (4) S.A. 938 (CC), at [33].

47 Wright, Tort Law and Human Rights, 2nd ed. p. 24.

48 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, s. 10.

49 Lee 2013 (2) S.A. 144 (CC), at [2].

50 See A. Price, “State Liability and Accountability” (2015) Acta Juridica 313, at 321.

51 Lee 2013 (2) S.A. 144 (CC), at [60].

52 See e.g. Turton, Evidential Uncertainty, pp. 105–12; McIvor, C., “The ‘Doubles the Risk’ Test for Causation and Other Related Judicial Misconceptions about Epidemiology” in Pitel, S.G.A., Neyers, J.W. and Chamberlain, E. (eds.), Tort Law: Challenging Orthodoxy (Oxford 2013)Google Scholar.

53 Fairchild [2002] UKHL 22, [2003] 1 A.C. 32.

54 Lee 2013 (2) S.A. 144 (CC), at [72]–[73].

55 Ibid., at para. [101].

Ibid

56 Ibid., at para. [79].

Ibid

57 Ibid., at para. [103].

Ibid

58 Ibid., at para. [84].

Ibid

59 Ibid., at para. [113].

Ibid

60 Ibid.

Ibid

61 Nkala and others v Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd and others [2016] ZAGPJHC 97, [2016] 3 All S.A. 233, at [76]. This and other more recent cases are highlighted by Price, A., “Constitutionalising Rights and Reacting to Risk in South Africa” in Dyson, M. (ed.), Regulating Risk Through Private Law (Cambridge 2017)Google Scholar.

62 Ex parte Nkala and others [2019] ZAGPJHC 260.

63 Nkala and others [2016] ZAGPJHC 97, [2016] 3 All S.A. 233, at [76].

64 See Price, “Constitutionalising Rights”, p. 433.

65 Mashongwa v Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa [2015] ZACC 36, at [65].

66 Ibid.

Ibid

67 Price, A., “Factual Causation After Lee” (2014) 131 S.A.L.J. 491Google Scholar, at 495.

68 Oppelt v Head: Health, Department of Health, Provincial Administration: Western Cape [2015] ZACC 33, at [48].

69 Unless, exceptionally an individual patient's life is knowingly put in danger by denial of access to such treatment, with “denial” being interpreted restrictively so that it does not extend to deficient, incorrect, or delayed treatment: Lopes de Sousa Fernandes v Portugal (Application no. 56080/13) (2018) 66 EHRR 28, at [191]–[192]. This is discussed in more detail in the final section of this article.

70 Oppelt [2015] ZACC 33, at [7], emphasis added.

71 Gregg v Scott [2005] UKHL 2, [2005] 2 A.C. 176.

72 Re E. (A Child) [2008] UKHL 66, [2009] 1 A.C. 536, at [14].

73 Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and another [2018] UKSC 11, [2019] A.C. 196.

74 Keehn, E.N. and Nevin, A., “Health, Human Rights, and the Transformation of Punishment: South African Litigation to Address HIV and Tuberculosis in Prisons” (2018) 20 Health and Human Rights Journal 213Google ScholarPubMed, at 219.

75 Sonke v Government of Republic of South Africa 24087/15, not yet reported, available at <https://genderjustice.org.za/publication/pollsmoor-court-order/>.

76 Price, “State Liability”, p. 321.

77 Ibid., at p. 333.

Ibid

78 Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2018] UKSC 11, [2019] A.C. 196, at [65].

79 Van Colle [2008] UKHL 50, [2009] 1 A.C. 225, at [138].

80 Not the operational duty to investigate with a view to avoiding the risk to the applicant, but the procedural duty to investigate the past violent crime suffered by the applicant.

81 DSD [2018] UKSC 11, [2019] A.C. 196, at [65].

82 Ibid., at para. [65].

Ibid

83 Varuhas, J., “A Tort-Based Approach to Damages under the Human Rights Act 1998” (2009) 72 M.L.R. 750CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 767.

84 Mowbray, “The European Court of Human Rights”, p. 652.

85 McCann and Others v UK (1995) 21 EHRR 97, at 178.

86 DSD [2018] UKSC 11, [2019] A.C. 196, at [136].

87 Ibid., at para. [136].

Ibid

88 Ibid.

Ibid

89 Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales [2015] UKSC 2, [2015] A.C. 1732.

90 Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [2018] UKSC 4, [2018] A.C. 736.

91 Tofaris and Steel, “Negligence Liability”, p. 130.

92 McBride, N.J., “Michael and the Future of Tort Law” (2016) 32 P.N. 14Google Scholar, at 28, emphasis in original.

93 Ibid., at p. 29, emphasis in original.

Ibid

94 Fairgrieve, D., State Liability in Tort: A Comparative Law Study (Oxford 2003), p. 80CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

95 Brincat and others v Malta (Application nos. 60908/11, 62110/11, 62129/11, 62312/11 and 62338/11), Judgment of 24 July 2014, not yet reported.

96 Ibid., at para. [150].

Ibid

97 Varuhas has observed that “Strasbourg jurisprudence is renowned for its lack of principles and ‘parsimonious’ reasoning”: “Damages under the Human Rights Act”, p. 750.

98 Brincat and others (Application nos. 60908/11, 62110/11, 62129/11, 62312/11 and 62338/11), Judgment of 24 July 2014, not yet reported, at [76].

99 Ibid., at para. [12].

Ibid

100 Sulyok, K., “Managing Uncertain Causation in Toxic Exposure Cases: Lessons for the European Court of Human Rights from US Toxic Tort Litigation” (2017) 18 Vermont Journal of Environmental Law 519Google Scholar, at 554.

101 Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co Ltd [2007] UKHL 39, [2008] 1 A.C. 281.

102 Varuhas, “Damages under the Human Rights Act”, p. 754, citing HL Deb. vol. 583 cols. 513–515 (18 November 1997).

103 Guerra v Italy (Application no. 116/1996/735/932) (1998) 26 EHRR 357.

104 Ibid., at para. [60].

Ibid

105 Ibid., at para. [7].

Ibid

106 Wright, J., Tort Law and Human Rights, 1st ed. (Oxford 2001), 66Google Scholar.

107 Guerra (Application no. 116/1996/735/932) (1998) 26 EHRR 357, at [57].

108 White, R.C.A. and Ovey, C., Jacobs, White, and Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights, 5th ed. (Oxford 2010), 395CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

109 Wright, Tort Law and Human Rights, 1st ed., p. 67.

110 Vilnes and others v Norway (Application nos. 52806/09 and 22703/10) [2013] 12 WLUK 183. I am grateful to Professor Liz Wicks for drawing this case to my attention.

111 Ibid., at para. [244].

Ibid

112 Chester v Afshar [2004] UKHL 41, [2005] 1 A.C. 134.

113 There is academic disagreement as to whether the problem was one of factual (but-for) causation or legal causation (coincidence), see Turton, G., “Informed Consent to Medical Treatment Post-Montgomery: Causation and Coincidence” (2019) 27 Med.L.R. 108CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed, at 118–21.

114 Chester [2004] UKHL 41, [2005] 1 A.C. 134, at [24].

115 Diamond v Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 1495 (QB); Correia v University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 356.

116 Lopes de Sousa Fernandes (Application no. 56080/13) (2018) 66 EHRR 28.

117 Anguelova v Bulgaria (Application no. 38361/97) (2004) 38 EHRR 31, at [125].

118 Mustafayev v Azerbaijan (Application no. 47095/09), Judgment of 4 May 2017, not yet reported, at [65].

119 €19,050 in Anguelova (Application no. 38361/97) (2004) 38 EHRR 31 and €20,000 in Mustafayev (Application no. 47095/09), Judgment of 4 May 2017.

120 White and Ovey, The European Convention, p. 147. See e.g. Sheppard v Home Office [2002] EWCA Civ 1921, at [13]; Salman v Turkey (Application no. 21986/93) (2002) 34 EHRR 17, at [99].

121 Lopes de Sousa Fernandes (Application no. 56080/13) (2018) 66 EHRR 28, at [196].

122 Ibid., at para. [114].

Ibid

123 Ibid., at para. [201].

Ibid

124 Aydoğdu v Turkey (Application no. 40448/06), Judgment of 30 August 2016, not yet reported: “un lien de causalité se trouve donc également établi entre le décès déploré en l'espèce et les problems structurels susmentionnés” (at [88]).

125 Ibid.: “Sans devoir spéculer sur les chances de survie de la petite fille si elle avait bénéficié d'une prise en charge immédiate et adéquate” (at [83]).

Ibid

126 Asiye Genç v Turkey (Application no. 24109/07), Judgment of 27 January 2015, not yet reported, at [78].

127 Gregg [2005] UKHL 2, [2005] 2 A.C. 176.

128 See the text accompanying note 13 above.

129 Nolan, D., “Negligence and Human Rights Law: The Case for Separate Development” (2013) 76 M.L.R. 286CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

130 See the text accompanying note 28 above.

131 Nolan, “Negligence and Human Rights Law”, pp. 293–97.

132 Ibid., at p. 287.

Ibid

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