Tuesday, 15 April 2008

"He had a bunch of keys"

[1978] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 172 at 173:


It was a factory at Gillingham in Kent. A firm called Photo Production Ltd. made Christmas cards there, and such like. There was a lot of paper and cardboard about which would burn easily. The factory was shut up for the night, locked and secure. No one was supposed to go in except a man on night patrol. He came from a security firm called Securicor. He had a bunch of keys. His duty was to go through the factory and see that all was safe and secure. No burglars and no fire.

On the night of Oct. 18/19, 1973, the patrolman was George Musgrove. He was a young man only 23 years old, unmarried. He came of a respectable family and had satisfactory references. He had been with Securicor for some three months. Securicor cannot be blamed for employing him on the job.

At the dead of night--10 minutes before midnight--Musgrove went to the factory. He unlocked the front door and went through the factory, switching on the lights as he went. Then he lit a match and threw it onto a cardboard box. It burst into flames. He says that he only meant it to be a very small fire and intended to put it out within a minute or two. But it got beyond his control. He was terrified and dialled 999 for the fire brigade. He tried to stop it spreading. He lost his glasses and false teeth. His right hand and arm were burnt. He staggered out of the factory through the smoke and flames. By that time the firemen and police were there. They had answered the call with great promptitude. They were at the factory at three minutes past midnight. But they could not save it. There was already a wall of flame across the building. Flames were coming through the roof. The place was gutted. The damage to the building and stock was put at £400,000. The loss of business at £250,000. Musgrove was afterwards charged with arson. He pleaded guilty to malicious damage and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.

The occupiers of the factory claim damages *174* from Securicor for this loss. The Judge has held that Securicor are exempted from liability by an exception clause in the contract. The factory occupiers appeal to this Court.

Further Info:
Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd [1980] AC 827
More Lord Denning quotes at LegalHumour.com
"The Law Explored: Lord Denning" by Gary Slapper, TimesOnline, 29 August 2007

1 comment:

Kate said...

I will show promptitude in responding to this, and say that Denning's judgments are what I miss most about study.

(BTW What was George Musgrove, at 23, doing with false teeth? Let's get to the bottom of THAT).