Antaios Compania Naviera SA v Salen Rederierna AB (‘the Antaios’): HL 1984

A ship charterer discovered that the bills of lading were incorrect, but delayed withdrawal from the charter for 13 days. They now sought leave to appeal the arbitration award against them.
Held: Though he deprecated extending the use of the expression ‘purposive construction’ from the interpretation of statutes to the interpretation of private contracts, Lord Diplock said: ‘If detailed semantic and syntactical analysis of a written contract lead to a conclusion that flouts business commonsense the contract must be made to yield to business commonsense.’
Leave to appeal an arbitrator’s award should be given only where there is a strong prima facie case that the arbitrator’s construction of the clause is wrong. Clear contradictions in lines of authority might justify an appeal but conflicting dicta were insufficient. Here the arbitrator had found the error non-repudiatory, and not covered by the relative clause. In any event any withdrawal should have been timely – in this case a maximum of two days.
The House considered the methods and principles of the interpretation of a contract. Lord Diplock said: ‘if detailed semantic and syntactical analysis of words in a commercial contract is going to lead to a conclusion that flouts business commonsense, it must be made to yield to business commonsense.’

Lord Diplock, Lord Wilberforce
[1985] AC 191, [1984] 3 WLR 592, [1984] 3 All ER 229, [1984] 2 Lloyds Rep 235
Arbitration Act 1979 1(3)
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedMousaka Inc v Golden Seagull Maritime Inc QBD 30-Jul-2001
There has been no change to the rule that a judge refusing leave to appeal from an arbitration award, need not give his reasons. The rationale is that the question is a threshold one, of whether a particular standard had been reached. It was not a . .
DisapprovedNorth Range Shipping Ltd v Seatrans Shipping Corporation CA 14-Mar-2002
The parties had been involved in an arbitration. The claimant sought leave to appeal. The judge refused to give leave, but did not say exactly why.
Held: Human Rights law required a right of appeal. That right could only be exercised properly . .
CitedMannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Assurance HL 21-May-1997
Minor Irregularity in Break Notice Not Fatal
Leases contained clauses allowing the tenant to break the lease by serving not less than six months notice to expire on the third anniversary of the commencement date of the term of the lease. The tenant gave notice to determine the leases on 12th . .
CitedPortsmouth City Football Club v Sellar Properties (Portsmouth) Limited, Singer and Friedlander Properties Plc ChD 17-Sep-2003
Various contracts were entered into for the sale of land, with compensation being paid in certain circumstances. One contract required a calculation of consideration as a set figure less a sum to be calculated as the cost of acquiring land. The sum . .
CitedInvestors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society HL 19-Jun-1997
Account taken of circumstances wihout ambiguity
The respondent gave advice on home income plans. The individual claimants had assigned their initial claims to the scheme, but later sought also to have their mortgages in favour of the respondent set aside.
Held: Investors having once . .
CitedKirin-Amgen Inc and others v Hoechst Marion Roussel Limited and others etc HL 21-Oct-2004
The claims arose in connection with the validity and alleged infringement of a European Patent on erythropoietin (‘EPO’).
Held: ‘Construction is objective in the sense that it is concerned with what a reasonable person to whom the utterance . .
CitedSirius International Insurance Company (Publ) v FAI General Insurance Limited and others HL 2-Dec-2004
The appellant had taken certain insurance risks on behalf of the respondents, subject to banking indemnities. Disputes arose and were settled under a Tomlin order, which was now itself subject to challenge.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The . .
CitedBHB Enterprises Plc v Victor Chandler (International) Ltd ChD 27-May-2005
The claimant created a very substantial computerised database about horses and the racing industry. It licensed the database to users, including some who were able to grant sub-licenses. It sought to rely on the Database Directive to support its . .
CitedG and S Properties v Donald Francis and Another SCS 13-Jun-2001
The pursuers were contracted to sell a property with sole selling rights. The contract was terminable on two weeks notice. Notice was given, and another company engaged. A buyer confused the two agents and obtained details from the pursuer’s office, . .
CitedInvestors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society HL 19-Jun-1997
Account taken of circumstances wihout ambiguity
The respondent gave advice on home income plans. The individual claimants had assigned their initial claims to the scheme, but later sought also to have their mortgages in favour of the respondent set aside.
Held: Investors having once . .
CitedE Alton and Company Limited v Orchard (Development) Holdings Limited CA 27-Jan-1998
The court asked whether an option to purchase a development site had been determined by failure of a condition, described as a condition precedent; and so was no longer exercisable by the defendant, as grantee.
Held: The agreement required the . .
CitedPenwith District Council v VP Developments Ltd TCC 2-Nov-2007
The council sought to appeal against an interim arbitration award.
Held: Leave to appeal was refused. The application was wholly unjustified. This was an appeal on the facts dressed up as an appeal on law. . .
CitedMegaro v Di Popolo Hotels Ltd CA 13-Mar-2007
Two properties had been in common ownership, but then divided. A fire escape on one property was to be available to the other. The servient tenement removed the fire escape. The owner of the dominent tenement (a hotel) sought relief.
Held: The . .
CitedOxonica Energy Ltd v Neuftec Ltd PatC 5-Sep-2008
The parties disputed the meaning of an patent and know how licence. The parties disputed whether the agreement referred to IP rights before formal patents had been granted despite the terms of the agreement.
Held: ‘The secret of drafting legal . .
CitedPratt v Aigaion Insurance Company SA (‘the Resolute’) CA 27-Nov-2008
The court considered the interpretation of a term in a contract of insurance to the effect that ‘Warranted Owner and/or Owner’s experienced skipper on board and in charge at all times and one experienced crew member.’, asking whether ‘at all times’ . .
CitedReilly v National Insurance and Guarantee Corporation Ltd CA 19-Dec-2008
The claimant sold fire extinguishers. Three failed, resulting in damage to the purchaser’s properties. His insurers refused to pay an indemnity saying that the failure was the failure of a piece of machinery (the switchgear) and was not covered by . .
CitedChartbrook Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd and Others HL 1-Jul-2009
Mutual Knowledge admissible to construe contract
The parties had entered into a development contract in respect of a site in Wandsworth, under which balancing compensation was to be paid. They disagreed as to its calculation. Persimmon sought rectification to reflect the negotiations.
Held: . .
CitedBank of Credit and Commerce International SA v Ali, Khan and others (No 1); BCCI v Ali HL 1-Mar-2001
Cere Needed Releasing Future Claims
A compromise agreement which appeared to claim to settle all outstanding claims between the employee and employer, did not prevent the employee later claiming for stigma losses where, at the time of the agreement, the circumstances which might lead . .
CitedMargerison v Bates and Another ChD 30-May-2008
The court considered the construction of a restrictive covenant after the disappearance of the covenantee. The covenant required no additional building without the consent of the covenantee, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld. The term . .
CitedRio Football Services Hungary Kft v Sevilla Futbal Club Sad QBD 6-Oct-2010
The defendant sought leave to appeal against summary judgment on several elements of a claim under a football player financing agreement, arguing that the claims were made under a penalty provision, and otherwise. It was also said that the . .
CitedFarstad Supply As v Enviroco Ltd SC 6-Apr-2011
The court was asked by the parties to a charterparty whether one of them is an ‘Affiliate’ of the charterer for the purposes of provisions in a charterparty by which both the owner and the charterer agreed to indemnify and hold each other harmless . .
CitedKookmin Bank v Rainy Sky Sa and Others CA 27-May-2010
The defendant bank appealed against summary judgment given on a claim on its obligations under an advance payment bond given to support ship-building contracts.
Sir Simon Tuckey (dissenting) said: ‘There is no dispute about the principles of . .
CitedRainy Sky Sa and Others v Kookmin Bank SC 2-Nov-2011
Commercial Sense Used to Interpret Contract
The Court was asked as to the role of commercial good sense in the construction of a term in a contract which was open to alternative interpretations.
Held: The appeal succeeded. In such a case the court should adopt the more, rather than the . .
CitedCo-operative Wholesale Society Ltd v National Westminster Bank plc CA 1995
The court considered the proper construction of rent review clauses in several cases. The underlying result which the landlords sought in each case was the same.
Held: It was a most improbable commercial result. Where the result, though . .
CitedGolubovich v Golubovich CA 21-May-2010
The court was asked to rule as to the recognition of a foreign (Moscow) decree of divorce obtained in breach of an Hemain injunction. The Russian proceedings had got to a stage requiring H positively to apply to prevent the decree.
Held: The . .
CitedSugarman and Others v CJS Investments Llp and Others CA 19-Sep-2014
The parties were apartment owners in a development, each owning shares in the management company. They disputed the interpreation of the Articles as to whether the owner of more than one apartment was still restricted to one vote at member meetings, . .
CitedRobert Hitchins Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v Worcesteshire County Council and Others Admn 18-Nov-2014
A planning permission was granted with an agreement under section 106. A second permission was later granted. The court was now asked whether the section 106 agreement applied also to the second permission.
Held: As a matter of law, the . .
CitedArnold v Britton and Others SC 10-Jun-2015
Absurdity did not defeat a clear clause
A standard lease of plots on a caravan park, contained a provision which appeared to increase the rent by 10% in each year. The tenants argued that such a substantial increase could not have been intended.
Held: The tenants’ appeal failed . .
CitedJohn Lewis Properties PLC v Viscount Chelsea ChD 1993
Three Leases of the Peter Jones site to T’s predecessor in 1934 contained covenants by T to redevelop the site in two phases, the second of which related to the MackMurdo and Simon’s Street buildings and was to be completed by December 25 1987. In . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Arbitration, Contract

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.183028