Safety Case Law

Custom Search

Mersey Docks & Harbour Board v. Coggins & Griffiths (Liverpool) Ltd.


Master/servant relationship – persons who must be protected. Direct control, only if control over what work and how it is done.


Act, Regulation or Reference:

Date: 1947


Coggins and Griffiths hired a crane and driver from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. the driver, Mr Newall, drove the crane negligently and trapped Mr Mcfarlane injuring him. The contract between the Board and the hirers stated that the driver was to become their employee for the duration of the hire. The question was whether the Board were liable to Mr Mcfarlane as Mr Newalls principal employers or whether the hirers now bore responsibility. It was held as a fact that the hirers had power to control what Mr Newall lifted with the crane but not how he lifted it..

The Decision

Control over Mr Newall's work had not passed to the hirers. It is not to be held that control had readily passed. Only if there is control over what work the person does and how he does it will control be held to pass. The trial judge awarded damages against the appellants. An appeal against this decision was dismissed. The Board appealed to the House of Lords. The appeal was dismissed.


Lord Macmillan: "That the crane driver was in general the servant of the appellant board is indisputable. The appellant board engaged him, paid him, prescribed the jobs he should undertake and alone could dismiss him." The person hiring the crane had some control but the real control was with Mersey Docks. The ultimate control is the right to dismiss.
A servant is one who is subject to the orders and control of an employer .... whether or not the persons are running their own business.