Donal Nolan, ‘Assumption of Responsibility: Four Questions’

Although the assumption of responsibility concept pervades the English law of negligence, its meaning remains hazy and its significance contested. While the courts employ the language of assumption of responsibility on a regular basis, no clear judicial definition of it has emerged. And commentators are divided as to whether assumption of responsibility is a distinct ground on which liability is imposed, or merely a foil for policy arguments – or for another, more general, test for the recognition of duties of care. Matters are complicated by the fact that assumption of responsibility does not fit neatly within the orthodox categories of ‘tort’ and ‘contract’, but hovers uncertainly between the two. The aim of this article is to try to bring some clarity to the controversies surrounding assumption of responsibility. Four questions frame the analysis. What does assumption of responsibility mean? When does it matter? Why do we need it? And where does it belong? Although the answers to some of these questions are necessarily tentative, at least one conclusion should become clear, namely that assumption of responsibility is a meaningful and distinctive basis on which to impose negligence liability.

Donal Nolan, Assumption of Responsibility: Four Questions, Current Legal Problems, Published: 13 July 2019.

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