Goodwill v British Pregnancy Advisory Service 1996
Areas of applicable law: Tort law – Duty of care – Negligence.
Main arguments in this case: A duty of care cannot exist if there is no proximity and foreseeabilty.
The fact of the case: The claimant, a 40 years old woman, brought legal proceedings against the British Pregnancy Advisory Service alleging that because of their negligence, she became pregnant and gave birth to a child.
The claimant was a divorced teacher who had a sexual relationship with a man. The man had had a vasectomy operation and was told that the operation was successful and therefore he would not need any contraceptive aids. The man also had semen test done a year later follwoing the operation which came out negative. Relying on these facts, the man stopped using any contraceptive aids and conveyed the same information to the defendant.
The defendant at this time was using a contraceptive coil. She also consulted her GP following the information she had received from her (sexual) partner. The GP told her that there was a very tiny chance that she might become pregnant. Relying on the information she took the coil out. However the vasectomy went into reversal and as a consequence the defendant got pregnant. She sued the British Pregnancy Advisory Service for financial loss claiming that it had a duty of care towards her as it failed to advise the man to use protection as there was a possibility that the vasectomy might have a spontaneous reversal.
The court rejected the claim. Though there may have been a duty of care towards the man itself, the doctor did not have a duty of care towards the man’s future sex partner as she was unknown at that time. Moreover, a duty of care might well have arisen towards, if it was so available, the man’s wife or partner at that time. The defendant was not a partner at the time of the vesectomy and was only a potential partner from a large group of females. And therefore, there was not any proximity between the doctor and the defendant. A duty of care could not exist if the defendant lakced proximity or foreseeabilty