Anns v Merton LBC [1978]

Anns v Merton London Borough Council [1977] UKHL 4, [1978] AC 728 is a landmark case in English tort law that established a broad test for determining the existence of a duty of care in the tort of negligence called the Anns test (also known as a two-stage test) for true third-party negligence.

The plaintiff, Mrs Anns, owned a house that suffered from structural damage due to inadequate foundations. She sued the defendant, Merton London Borough Council, for negligence, claiming that the Council had failed to carry out proper inspections and had approved the construction of the house without ensuring that the foundations were adequate.

The House of Lords, in a two-stage test, established a framework for determining whether a duty of care exists in a particular case:
  1. Whether there was a sufficient relationship of proximity based upon foreseeability;
  2. Whether there were considerations of reasons why there should not be a duty of care.

The first stage involves determining whether there is sufficient proximity between the parties and whether it is fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care. The second stage involves considering whether there are any policy considerations that would negate or limit the duty of care.

The House of Lords unanimously decided that the Council did owe a duty of care to Anns. This framework became known as the Anns test and was widely adopted by courts in England and Wales. However, the test was criticised for being too broad and for not taking into account the complexities of the law of negligence, and was subsequently overruled by Caparo v Dickman [1990], Murphy v Brentwood [1991], and Barrett v Enfield [2001].

In 2018, the Supreme Court overruled the Anns test in Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police and established a new approach for determining the existence of a duty of care, known as the incremental approach.
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