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Byrne v. Boadle


Byrne v. Boadle Court of Exchequer, 1863. 2 H. & C. 722, 159 Eng.Rep. 299.

Barrel falls from a building, hold the company liable unless they can prove it was a non-negligent dropping of a barrel out a window.

The defendant, who was a flour dealer, argued that the plaintiff must lead evidence as to the facts in order to establish negligence.

The Decision

Per Pollock CB (Chief Baron): "There are certain cases of which it may be said res ipsa loquitur, and this seems one of them. In some cases the courts have held that the mere facts of the accident having occurred is evidence of negligence, as, for instance, in the case of railway collisions. If an article, calculated to cause damage is put in the wrong place and does mischief, I think that those whose duty it was to put it in the right place are prima facie responsible, and if there is any state of facts to rebut the presumption of negligence, they must prove them."


Byrne was walking past Boadle’s shop and suddenly a barrel of flour hit him in the head. Byrne sued for negligence. He gets nonsuited (dismissed) for failing to make a prima facie case for negligence, but the court indicates that if the Court of Exchequer will buy the plaintiff’s case, the plaintiff can get £50.