Mr Harris was employed by the English Welsh and Scottish Railway Limited (EWSR) between 1974 and 1999. This was an appeal from a decision of the County Court in respect of the dismissal of Mr Harris’ claim against the EWSR for damage in respect of hearing loss caused by exposure to the noise of various types of locomotive between 1974 and 1999.

His Honour Judge Langan QC found that although EWSR was liable in principle to Mr Harris for exposure to noise levels above 85 dB(A)leq, EWSR was not liable in common law because it had conscientiously considered the possibility of taking precautions and had reasonably rejected that course. Mr Harris appealed against this decision and EWSR cross-appealed the decision that Mr Harris had been exposed to a noise above 85 dB(A)leq regularly and over a significant period.

Three questions had to be decided in order to determine whether or not Mr Harris’ case, in common law, was established:

  • Whether the daily level of noise to which Mr Harris was frequently subjected on his case ie between 85 dB(A)leq and 90 dB(A)leq, was such as to render EWSR under a duty of care to Harris.
  • Whether Mr Harris was in fact exposed to noise levels above 85 dB(A)leq.
  • Whether EWSR had in fact taken, or considered taking, appropriate precautions so as to avoid the liability which it would otherwise have to Mr Harris.