In law, foreseeability is the chance that a particular event can be predicted. A judge in one case summed up the importance of foreseeability by saying that “Without foreseeability, legal cause cannot be established. Without legal cause, the proximate cause cannot be established. Without proximate cause there can be no negligence.” In other words, if an event cannot be foreseen, there can be no liability in law.
For example, in 2010 a Scottish schoolboy fell on a paintbrush which hurt his eye. This happened when the boy and his classmates were working on scenery for a school show. A girl stood up and bumped into Thomas, causing him to fall over and fall onto the paintbrush. The pointed end of the brush went into his left eye. In her written ruling, the judge said: “Foreseeability is not the same as frequency (=how often something occurs) – an accident might rarely happen yet still be foreseeable. When you look at the whole circumstances of the use of the brush a real risk of injury emerges as foreseeable. A reasonable person in the position of the teachers would have taken steps to prevent that foreseeable risk of harm to Thomas.” The Court in Edinburgh ruled that the Council failed to prevent a foreseeable risk of harm.