Study Notes

Key Case | Barnett v Chelsea and Kensington Hospitals (1969)

Last updated 4 Sept 2022

Where it is proved ‘but for’ the defendant’s actions the outcome would have occurred anyway, factual causation is not satisfied and the defendant will not be liable.


Claimant: Mrs Barnett on behalf of her deceased husband

Defendant: Chelsea and Kensington Hospital


Mr Barnett was a night watchman whose tea had been poisoned with arsenic (unknown to him.) He attended the hospital after suffering from stomach pains and sickness. He was seen by a nurse who telephoned the duty doctor who advised him to go home and contact his GP. Mr Barnett died five hours later. He would have died regardless of the doctor seeing him or not as there was nothing that could have been done to save him.

Outcome: Not liable

Legal principle: The defendants were not liable, because their failure to examine him did not cause his death. But for the doctor not seeing him, he would have died regardless as the position had already taken effect.

Barnett v Chelsea & Kensington Hospital (1969) | A-Level Law | Key Case Summaries | Tort

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