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Damages, The Measure of

Law and Sea.

Every breach of contract gives rise to a claim for damages, even when the claimant has not suffered any loss as a result of the breach, he is still entitled to recover damages, such damages are nominal damages. The legal meaning of damages is to compensate the innocent party for the breach of the contract by the guilty party.

Accepted Responsibility of Contract-breaker
Last updated: 06-Oct-2014

Per Lord Hoffman in Transfield Shipping Inc v Mercator Shipping Inc [2008] UKHL 48, at paras 14-15:

14. …in Banque Bruxelles Lambert SA v Eagle Star Insurance Co Ltd (sub nom South Australia Asset Management Corpn v York Montague Ltd) [1997] AC 191, 211, I said (with the concurrence of the other members of the House):

"I think that this was the wrong place to begin. Before one can consider the principle on which one should calculate the damages to which a plaintiff is entitled as compensation for loss, it is necessary to decide for what kind of loss he is entitled to compensation. A correct description of the loss for which the valuer is liable must precede any consideration of the measure of damages."

15. In other words, one must first decide whether the loss for which compensation is sought is of a "kind" or "type" for which the contract-breaker ought fairly to be taken to have accepted responsibility. In the South Australia case the question was whether a valuer, who had (in breach of an implied term to exercise reasonable care and skill) negligently advised his client bank that property which it proposed to take as security for a loan was worth a good deal more than its actual market value, should be liable not only for losses attributable to the deficient security but also for further losses attributable to a fall in the property market. The House decided that he should not be liable for this kind of loss:

In the case of an implied contractual duty, the nature and extent of the liability is defined by the term which the law implies. As in the case of any implied term, the process is one of construction of the agreement as a whole in its commercial setting. The contractual duty to provide a valuation and the known purpose of that valuation compel the conclusion that the contract includes a duty of care. The scope of the duty, in the sense of the consequences for which the valuer is responsible, is that which the law regards as best giving effect to the express obligations assumed by the valuer: neither cutting them down so that the lender obtains less than he was reasonably entitled to expect, nor extending them so as to impose on the valuer a liability greater than he could reasonably have thought he was undertaking.

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