the Irish for rights

Rescue from the runaway truck

Postman Pat's truck, via the Postman Pat websiteSuppose you see a runaway truck, and seek to stop its progress before it does real damage – what legal claims arise? In an earlier post, I referred to two of the possible claims: first, if you stop it from injuring others, but are yourself injured in the process, you can sue the tortfeasor who released the truck in the first place. Second, if you are negligent in the process, you might yourself be liable in negligence to anyone you injure. But there is a third; if your rescue confers a benefit upon someone, such as the owner of the truck, then you might have an action in restitution for unjust enrichment against the owner of the truck.

This all sounds like a classic exam question, but it has recently happened. Yesterday’s Times has an interesting story raising all of these issues:

Robert Moore snubbed by Royal Mail after he stopped runaway post van

The Royal Mail is being accused of ingratitude after criticising a man who stopped a 2-tonne runaway post van from careering over a busy main road. Robert Moore, 63, an artist, cracked a rib and injured a knee as he tried to stop the Transit van rolling down a hill when the driver forgot to apply the handbrake. But, instead of thanking him for his quick thinking, Royal Mail’s lawyers accused him of recklessness and putting his life in danger. …

The incident occurred in September when Mr Moore saw the Royal Mail van rolling backwards towards a junction in Bristol. He ran alongside and opened the driver’s door but was unable to reach the handbrake. Despite injuries to his legs, which were scraped along the road, he helped to stop the van before it reached the main road. He suffered a cracked rib and injured knee and instructed his solicitor, Metcalfes, of Bristol, to inquire if he was entitled to compensation. …

It seems from this that Moore sought to take a negligence action against the Royal Mail. As the propositions above demonstrate, his negligence action is against the tortfeasor who allowed the runaway truck to escape and there is nothing in the article to suggest that the Royal Mail was negligent in that respect. On the other hand, he could very well have an action in restitution for unjust enrichment against the Royal Mail, since his actions conferred an obvious and incontrovertible benefit upon them. Indeed, they have changed their tune; the article concluded:

Royal Mail apologised yesterday for the letter and promised to investigate. A spokesman said: “We would like to apologise to Mr Moore for the handling of this case and we are discussing the matter with him and his legal representatives.”

More coverage: here (Bristol Evening Post), here (Bristol Evening Post again), here (Daily Telegraph), and here (The Register).

3 Responses to “Rescue from the runaway truck”

  1. Legal Eagle says:

    Craziness! No one would believe an exam hypothetical like that.

  2. Eoin says:

    Nobody, except Postman Pat – and my poor students, who regularly get crazier questions.

  3. […] Moreover, if the rescue confers a benefit, then the person who has received the benefit may be liable to make restitution of that […]

Leave a Reply



Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

Academic links


  • RSS Feed
  • RSS Feed
  • Subscribe via Email
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Archives by month

Categories by topic

My recent tweets

Blogroll (or, really, a non-blogroll)

What I'd like for here is a simple widget that takes the list of feeds from my existing RSS reader and displays it here as a blogroll. Nothing fancy. I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

I had built a blogroll here on my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Google Reader produced a line of html for each RSS subscription category, each of which I pasted here. So I had a list of my subscriptions as my blogroll, organised by category, which updated whenever I edited Google Reader. Easy peasy. However, with the sad and unnecessary demise of that product, so also went this blogroll. Please take a moment to mourn Google Reader. If there's an RSS reader which provides a line of html for the list of subscriptions, or for each RSS subscription category as Google Reader did, I'd happily use that. So, as I've already begged, I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

Meanwhile, please bear with me until I find a new RSS+Blogroll solution




Creative Commons License

This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. I am happy for you to reuse and adapt my content, provided that you attribute it to me, and do not use it commercially. Thanks. Eoin

Credit where it’s due

The image in the banner above is a detail from a photograph of the front of Trinity College Dublin night taken by Melanie May.

Others whose technical advice and help have proven invaluable in keeping this show on the road include Dermot Frost, Karlin Lillington, Daithí Mac Síthigh, and Antoin Ó Lachtnáin.

Thanks to Blacknight for hosting.