Associated Japanese Bank (International) Ltd v Credit du Nord SA: 1988

A contract of guarantee was made, but based upon a term of fundamental importance which was mistaken as to the existence of certain machines.
Held: The court must first look to the nature of the purported agreement. Steyn J said: ‘Logically, before one can turn to the rules as to mistake, whether at common law or in equity, one must first determine whether the contract itself, by express or implied condition precedent or otherwise, provides who bears the risk of the relevant mistake. It is at this hurdle that many pleas of mistake will either fail or prove to have been unnecessary. Only if the contract is silent on the point, is there scope for invoking mistake. That brings me to the relationship between common law mistake and mistake in equity. Where common law mistake has been pleaded, the court must first consider this plea. If the contract is held to be void, no question of mistake in equity arises. But, if the contract is held to be valid, a plea of mistake in equity may still have to be considered.’

A contract could be rescinded for mutual mistake. ‘The first imperative must be that the law ought to uphold rather than destroy apparent contracts. Secondly, the common law rules as to a mistake regarding the quality of the subject matter, like the common law rules regarding commercial frustration, are designed to cope with the impact of unexpected and wholly exceptional circumstances on apparent contracts. Thirdly, such a mistake in order to attract legal consequences must substantially be shared by both parties, and must relate to facts as they existed at the time the contract was made. Fourthly, the mistake must render the subject matter of the contract essentially and radically different from the subject matter which the parties believed to exist.’


Steyn J


[1989] 1 WLR 255, [1988] 3 All ER 902


England and Wales


CitedBell v Lever Brothers Ltd HL 15-Dec-1931
Contract – Mutual Mistake Test
Bell was director and chairman of Niger, a subsidiary of Lever Brothers Ltd who dismissed him, offering and paying pounds 30,000 compensation. Lever then discovered that Mr Bell had made secret profits at the expense of Niger for which he could have . .

Cited by:

CitedWilliam Sindall Plc v Cambridgeshire County Council CA 21-May-1993
Land was bought for development, but the purchaser later discovered a sewage pipe which very substantially limited its development potential. The existence of the pipe had not been disclosed on the sale, being unknown to the seller.
Held: . .
CitedMargaret Brennan v Bolt Burdon, London Borough of Islington, Leigh Day and Co QBD 30-Oct-2003
The claimant had sought relief for the injury to her health suffered by condition of her flat. The legal advisers had settled the matter, thinking that the claim had not been timeously served. The defendant appealed an order that the compromise was . .
CitedEIC Services Ltd European Internet Capital Ltd v Phipps, Paul, Barber CA 30-Jul-2004
Whether issue of additional shares had been properly authorised . .
CitedHalpern and Another v Halpern and others ComC 24-Mar-2006
The deceased parents, being orthodox Jews, had first made standard wills and then made provision accoding to Jewish law. A dispute after the second death was referred to a Beth Din arbitration. After an initial resolution, various distributions were . .
ApprovedGraves v Graves and others CA 3-Jul-2007
The parties had divorced and settled financial provision, but the former wife and her children came to need a house and one of the claimant’s properties became vacant, and she was allowed to occupy it as a tenant, with the majority of the rent being . .
CitedButters and Others v BBC Worldwide Ltd and Others ChD 20-Aug-2009
In the insolvency of Woolworths plc, a subsidiary sought to have valued its shareholding in a company in which the defendants were co-shareholders. It was argued that an earlier agreement between them had not be fully superceded by a subsequent one. . .
CitedLehman Brothers International (Europe) v Exotix Partners Llp ChD 9-Sep-2019
The parties had contracted to trade global depository notes issued by the Peruvian government. Each made mistakes as to their true value, thinking them scraps worth a few thousand dollars, whereas their true value was over $8m. On the defendant . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 14 September 2022; Ref: scu.185668