Does a decision change the law if it turns on its own facts?

The orthodox answer to this question is no, on the basis that it is the peculiarities of the facts which give rise to the outcome, rather than any new legal approach. In two decisions this week in the tort of negligence, the clinical claim Darnley in the Supreme Court and the vicarious liability claim Bellman in the Court of Appeal, the higher Courts worked from the initial findings of fact and applied the existing law to them to drive different outcomes from those reached in the courts below.

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Opportunity to revisit the law on material contribution not taken

The Privy Council (25 January 2016) handed down the judgment in Williams v The Bermuda Hospitals Board [2016] UKPC 4. It had been hoped that the Supreme Court, in its guise as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), might take the opportunity to revisit the existing law on material contribution and causation, which some feel is in need of reform. This proved not to be the case, with the Privy Council upholding the Court of Appeal of Bermuda’s decision and dismissing the Hospitals Board’s appeal.

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