Stovin v Wise (1996)

Claim
against public body was based not on positive infliction of harm but on failure
to exercise statutory power concerning road improvement.
House
of Lords considered question of when a statutory power (as opposed to a statutory duty) would give rise to common
law duty of care.
Held
that this question of whether statutory power gave rise to common law duty of
care required examination of policy of the statute.
Mere
statutory power would normally not give rise to common law duty of care.
Exception
possible when two conditions were satisfied:
1.
Must have been irrational not to have exercised the power, so there was in
effect public law duty to act.
2.
Must be exceptional grounds for holding that policy of statute required
compensation to be paid to persons who suffered loss because the power was not
exercised.
Neither
condition satisfied in this case.
[Thus
in cases of failure to exercise statutory power, clear that courts will rarely
impose a duty of care on public body.
Sound
principle – to hold otherwise might encourage performance of acts by public authorities,
not necessarily in public interest but purely to avoid risk of being sued.]