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Tort Law: Text and Materials

Tort Law: Text and Materials (6th edn)

Mark Lunney, Donal Nolan, and Ken Oliphant
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date: 13 April 2024

p. 2886. Defences to Negligencelocked

p. 2886. Defences to Negligencelocked

  • Mark Lunney, Mark LunneyProfessor of Law, University of New England in New South Wales
  • Donal NolanDonal NolanProfessor of Private Law. Francis Reynolds and Clarendon Fellow and Tutor at Worcester College, University of Oxford
  •  and Ken OliphantKen OliphantDirector of the Institute for European Tort Law, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna


This chapter examines the following defences to a claim in negligence: volenti non fit injuria; contributory negligence; exclusion of liability; and illegality. The defence of volenti non fit injuria reflects the common sense notion that ‘[o]ne who has invited or assented to an act being done towards him cannot, when he suffers from it, complain of it as a wrong’. Contributory negligence is a partial defence that operates not to defeat the claimant's claim entirely but rather to reduce the amount of damages the defendant must pay. A defendant may seek to exclude all potential liability to another person in advance of exposing himself to the risk of a possible claim. The defence of illegality denies recovery to certain claimants on the grounds that their claim is tainted by their own illegal conduct.

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