Your Cart

Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Miller Steamship Co Ltd [1967]

Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v The Miller Steamship Co Ltd [1967] 1 AC 617, commonly referred to as The Wagon Mound (No 2), established a key legal principle regarding the relevance of the seriousness of possible harm in determining the extent of a party's duty of care in negligence.

The facts of the case revolved around the defendant's ship, The Wagon Mound, negligently releasing oil into the sea near a wharf close to Sydney Harbour. An unfortunate sequence of events led to the oil mixing with cotton debris, which was then ignited by sparks from nearby welding works. This resulted in a destructive fire that severely damaged several boats and the dock.

Although this incident had been previously considered in Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd [1961] (Wagon Mound No 1), the focus in this case shifted to the test for breach of the duty of care, rather than the issue of remoteness in causation.

The central issue was whether the defendant had breached their tortious duty of care by negligently allowing the oil to spill. The Privy Council held that a breach had indeed occurred. Despite the low likelihood of the oil spilling, the defendant was aware that if such an event were to happen, the potential harm could be significant. Additionally, a reasonably professional person on the ship could have recognised the risk of fire, and this risk could have been easily mitigated at minimal cost to the defendant.

The key takeaway from the decision is that when establishing duties of care in tort, it is necessary to consider both the extent and gravity of a possible injury. In this case, the seriousness of the potential harm played a pivotal role in determining that the defendant had breached their duty of care in allowing the oil spill to occur.

Check out our exam-focused Tort Law notes now.

Subscribe to UOL Case Bank for more exclusive content and case summaries.

Trusted by thousands of law students worldwide

Where are our students from?

Yale University

Council of Europe

Baker Mckenzie 

University of Chicago

Columbia University

New York University

University of Michigan 


University College London (UCL)

London School of Economics (LSE)

King’s College London (KCL)

University of London

University of Manchester

University of Zurich

University of York

Brandeis University

University of Exeter

University of Sheffield

Boston University

University of Washington

University of Leeds

University of Law

Royal Holloway, University of London 

Birkbeck, University of London

SOAS, University of London

University of Kent

University of Hull

Queen’s University Belfast

Toronto Metropolitan University

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

University of Buckingham

Your perfect companion for open-book and closed-book exams

Diagrams and Charts

Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

Clear and Succinct Definitions

Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

Statutory Provisions

Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

Case Summaries

We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

Rules and Exceptions

Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.


Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

Case Law

Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

Law Essay Guide

You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

Problem Question Guide

We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

Structured Explanations

Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

Legal Research

You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.


All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.