Volenti non fit injuria
In tort law, if a person does a wrongful conduct that causes injury to another person, he is held accountable and must pay damages or offer some other remedy to the victim of the wrongful act, as determined by the Court.
However, due of the operation of tort defenses, even if a person suffers a loss as a result of another person's act, he may be unable to seek damages from that person. The defense of volenti non fit injuria, which states that the plaintiff is not entitled to damages because he consented to the act that injured him, is one such defence available to a defendant.
What is Volenti non fit injuria?
In tort law, everyone has a responsibility to behave with reasonable care in order to avoid any injury that may result from their failure to do so. For example, if a person is driving his car, he has a responsibility to drive it safely and within speed restrictions in order to avoid an accident that could damage others. This is the general rule in torts but there are certain exceptions which are allowed in these cases and these called as defenses to tort. Under these defenses, a defendant can escape liability and volenti non-fit injuria is also one such defense which is available for the defendant.
If a person voluntarily consents to an act that causes him to be damaged, he cannot sue the other person for damages because the act was one to which he voluntarily consented. The plaintiff's consent serves as a defense, and this defense is known as volenti non fit injuria, which implies that no harm comes to a willing individual.
ILLUSTRATION: If A has a bike with no brakes and B knows about the condition of the bike but still chooses to sit on it with A driving it, and they both sustain injuries in an accident as a result of the brakes failing, B cannot seek compensation from A because he voluntarily consented to sit on the bike.
However, in the example above, if B was unaware of the condition of the brakes and was wounded while sitting in it, he would not be barred from suing A for damages because B did not consent to the risk of being injured as a result of the brakes failing.
There are some important factors or requirements that must be present in a case for the defense of volenti non fit injuria to be used, and only when they are met can this defense be used to avoid liability.
There are 2 essential elements in this defense:
The plaintiff has the knowledge of the risk
The plaintiff with the knowledge of risk has voluntarily agreed to suffer the harm.
As a result, a defendant is relieved of liability whenever the plaintiff is informed of the possibility of harm that is likely to be created by an act and still chooses to conduct that act and thus agrees to suffer the injury.
However, knowing exactly about the risk is not enough to invoke this defence; it is known as Scienti non fit injuria, which implies that simply knowing about the risk does not imply consent to it. As a result, knowing anything is only a partial fulfilment of the conditions for applying volenti non fit injuria.
Illustration: A goes for bungee jumping and he knows that he might get injured by it but he still decides to do it and as a result, he suffers injury despite all the necessary care being taken by the organizers. Here A cannot claim damages from the organizers because he had full knowledge of the risks and he had voluntarily agreed to suffer that injury by choosing to do bungee jumping.