Nettleship v Weston

Nettleship v Weston

[1971] 2 QB 691


The law of negligence expects learner drivers to meet the same standard of care/fault standard as a reasonable qualified and competent driver.


The defendant Mrs Weston wanted to learn to drive so she asked her friend the claimant Mr Nettleship to give her some driving lessons. Mr Nettleship made sure to check that Mrs Weston had the correct insurance before agreeing to teach her. During one of the lessons, Mrs Weston failed to straighten the wheel after a bend, mounted the kerb, and crashed into a lampost. Mr Nettleship fractured his knee so sued Mrs Weston in negligence.

Mrs Weston argued that the court should lower the standard of care for learner drivers. She also argued that the defence of volenti non fit injuria applied. She claimed that since Mr Nettleship agreed to teach her knowing that she was a learner, he had voluntarily accepted the risk.


In the context of the law of negligence, whether learner drivers have to meet a lower standard of care than experienced drivers.


The court sided with Mr Nettleship and held that the law of negligence expects learner drivers to meet the same standard of care as a reasonable qualified and competent driver. Moreover, volenti non fit injuria did not apply as Mr Nettleship had checked Mrs Weston's insurance cover. This showed that Mr Nettleship did not waive any right to compensation. However, the court did find that Mr Nettleship was also partly at fault and so reduced his damages by 50% for contributory negligence.


This case is an example of the objective standard of care in the negligence enquiry. The objective standard of care takes no account of the defendant's individual characteristics and qualities. Lord Justice Megaw in Nettleship v Weston offered one pragmatic argument for the objective standard:

The certainty of a general standard is preferable to the vagaries of a fluctuating standard.

Regarding volenti non fit injuria, Lord Denning MR had this to say:

Knowledge of the risk of injury is not enough. Nor is a willingness to take the risk of injury. Nothing will suffice short of an agreement to waive any claim for negligence. The plaintiff must agree, expressly or impliedly, to waive any claim for any injury that may befall him due to the lack of reasonable care by the defendants or, more accurately, due to the failure of the defendant to measure up to the standard of care that the law requires of him.