Bolton v Stone [1951] 1 All ER 1078

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  • Cricket had been played on the Cheetham Cricket Ground, which was surrounded by a net, since the late 1800s.
  • In 1947, a batsman hit the ball over the fence, hitting Miss Stone and injuring her.
  • In the history of the club, a ball had only been hit over the fence about 6 times before, and had never hit anybody.
  • Miss Stone sued the committee of the cricket ground in negligence.


  • Was the incident reasonably foreseeable, and therefore was the committe liable in negligence?


  • The House of Lords held that the risk was not reasonably foreseeable because it happened to rarely – only a few balls had ever been hit over the fence.
  • Lord Porter stated that if the law was to impose negligence on every rare event that a reasonable person could possibly foresee, nobody would ever do anything out of fear of the remote possibility of an accident.
  • Therefore in determining whether a risk is reasonably foreseeable, more than just foreseeability at all needs to be considered. Other factors like how likely it is to happen and how serious the consequences would be are also relevant.
  • All in all, the test is whether a reasonable man would anticipate the risk, in light of all factors.
  • In this case, Miss Stone’s case failed as the risk was too remote, although the court did express some sympathy for her plight.


  • “Nor is the remote possibility of injury occurring enough [to establish negligence]; there must be sufficient probability to lead a reasonable man to anticipate it. The existence of some risk is an ordinary incident of life, even when all due care has been, as it must be, taken.” (Lord Porter)
  • “The standard of care in the law of negligence is the standard of an ordinarily careful man, but in my opinion an ordinarily careful man does not take precautions against every foreseeable risk… He
    takes precautions against risks which are reasonably likely to happen. Many foreseeable risks are extremely unlikely to happen and cannot be guarded against except by almost complete isolation.” (Lord Oaksey)

  • “In my judgment the test to be applied here is whether the risk of damage to a person on the road was so small that a reasonable man in the position of the Appellants, considering the matter from the point of view of safety, would have thought it right to refrain from taking steps to prevent the danger. In considering that matter I think that it would be right to take into account not only how remote is the chance that a person might be struck but also how serious the consequences are likely to be if a person is struck: but I do not think that it would be right to take into account the difficulty of remedial measures.” (Lord Reid)

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