To A Willing Person, No Injury Is Done
It is one of the major defenses in the Law of Torts. As per this maxim, the person who himself voluntarily waived or abandoned his right cannot have any claim over it. It is a common law doctrine, which holds the person who voluntarily gives consent for any harm to suffer would not be liable to claim any damages for the same and this consent serves as a good defense against the plaintiff. In English law, this maxim presupposes a tortious act by the defendant. This defense makes it a requirement for the claimant to have agreed out of free consent. There should either be an expressed or an implied agreement between the two parties regarding the same. The claimant should also be made aware of the risks and its full knowledge and its extent.
It is often stated that the Claimant consents to the risk of harm, however, the defense of volenti is much more limited in its application and should not be confused with the defense of consent concerning trespass. The defense of volenti non fit injuria requires a freely entered and voluntary agreement by the Claimant, in full knowledge of the circumstances.
A, B, and C plan a trip to Goa on C’s car. However, C’s car has an issue with its brakes. In an accident, all the three sustain major injuries. In this case, if A and B knowing that the car’s brakes do not work, still sit on the car, they cannot claim relief from C. This is because they have voluntarily consented for the trip knowing that the car’s brake system does not work properly.
However, in the above illustration, if A and B were not aware of the conditions of brakes and then they sustained injuries sitting in it, they can claim damages from C because A and B did not give their consent to accept the risk of getting injured due to failure of brakes.
In Ravindra Padmanabhan (Dr.) vs Lakshmi Rajan And Anr., the plaintiff had a tumor on her breasts and therefore she went to the hospital to have it removed. While operating her the doctor also removed the uterus even though it had nothing to do with the tumor. Thus, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal held the defendants liable and thus, the defense of volenti non fit injuria was rejected.
In Baker vs. T.E. Hopkins & son, due to the fault on the defendant, a well was filled with the poisonous fumes of the petrol-driven pump. Two of his workmen were to overcome by those fumes. Dr. Baker was called to save them, he was also told about the risk involved in the same. Even after that, he jumped into the well knowingly of the danger involved. But soon after he was driven out from there, although on the way to the hospital he died. The widow of Dr. Baker sued the workman’s employer for compensation. It was held that the defendant was liable for the compensation, as it was the rescue case. Even though he voluntarily agreed to take the risk, the plaintiff was liable to compensation.