Bank of Nova Scotia v Hellenic Mutual War Risks Association (Bermuda) Ltd (The Good Luck): HL 1992

The effect of breach of an insurance warranty is automatic, rather than dependant on any acceptance or election.
Lord Goff of Chieveley said: ‘So it is laid down in section 33(3) that, subject to any express provision in the policy, the insurer is discharged from liability as from the date of the breach of warranty. Those words are clear. They show that discharge of the insurer from liability is automatic and is not dependent upon any decision by the insurer to treat the contract or the insurance as at an end; though, under section 34(3), the insurer may waive the breach of warranty.
Section 33(3) of the Act reflects what has been described, in successive editions of Chalmers, The Marine Insurance Act 1906, as the inveterate practice in marine insurance of using the term ‘warranty’ as signifying a condition precedent.’ Lord Goff referred to Thomson -v- Weems and said ‘Once this is appreciated, it becomes readily understandable that, if a promissory warranty is not complied with, the insurer is discharged from liability as from the date of breach of warranty, for the simple reason that fulfilment of the warranty is a condition precedent to the liability of the insurer . . In the case of conditions precedent, the word ‘condition’ is being used in its classical sense in English law, under which the coming into existence of (for example) an obligation, or the duty or further duty to perform an obligation, is dependent upon the fulfilment of the specified condition. Here, where we are concerned with a promissory warranty, i.e. a promissory condition precedent, contained in an existing contract of insurance, non-fulfilment of the condition does not prevent the contract from coming into existence. What it does (as section 33(3) makes plain) is to discharge the insurer from liability as from the date of the breach. Certainly, it does not have the effect of discharging the contract ab initio. Nor, strictly speaking, does it have the effect of bringing the contract to an end. It is possible that there may be obligations of the assured under the contract which will survive the discharge of the insurer from liability, as for example a continuing liability to pay premium. Even if in the result no further obligations rest on either party, it is not correct to speak of the contract being avoided; and it is, strictly speaking, more accurate to keep to the carefully chosen words in section 33(3) of the Act, rather than to speak of the contract being brought to an end, though that may be the practical effect. When, as section 34(3) contemplates, the insurer waives a breach of a promissory warranty, the effect is that, to the extent of the waiver, the insurer cannot rely upon the breach as having discharged him from liability. This is a very different thing from saying that discharge of the insurer from liability is dependent upon a decision by the insurer.

Lord Goff of Chieveley
[1992] 1 AC 233
Marine Insurance Act 1906 33
England and Wales
Appeal fromBank of Nova Scotia v Hellenic Mutual War Risks Association (Bermuda) Ltd (The Good Luck) CA 1990
When a contract is to be construed purposively, the court must look to the purposes of both parties, not just one of them. No apportionment was to be applied under the 1945 Act: ‘Similarly, we think that the facts and circumstances of the present . .
CitedState Trading Corporation of India Ltd v M Golodetz Ltd CA 1989
Kerr LJ said: ‘What is commonly referred to as an acceptance of a repudiation must be communicated to the party in breach or at least overtly evinced. . An unequivocal act which is inconsistent with the subsistence of the contract may be sufficient, . .
CitedThomson v Weems HL 1884
Where a basis of the contract clause makes the correctness or completeness of the insured’s disclosure into a warranty, a breach of that warranty has the effect that the insurance cover never attaches under the contract.
Lord Blackburn said: . .

Cited by:
CitedAXA General Insurance Limited v Gottlieb CA 11-Feb-2005
The defendant made a claim under an insurance policy. The insurer made an interim payment, but then asserted that the claim was fraudulent, and sought recovery of the interim payment.
Held: At common law, fraud in an insurance claim, once . .
CitedBrit Syndicates Ltd and others v Italaudit Spa and others HL 12-Mar-2008
The parties disputed the extent of cover under an insurance policy. The insured firm of accountants had failed to verify the existence of a substantial balance claimed by the company it audited. The policy ‘included as an Assured Firm but solely in . .
CitedGenesis Housing Association Ltd v Liberty Syndicate Management Ltd CA 4-Oct-2013
The housing association was to develop an estate of social housing, supported by an insurance guarantee. The insurance proposal contained a clause stating that the information in the proposal was to form the basis of the policy, and that the policy . .
CitedGenesis Housing Association Ltd v Liberty Syndicate Management Ltd TCC 8-Nov-2012
Insurers had rejected a claim under the policy, saying that the proposal form had included a basis of insurance declaration warranted by the proposer, and that since it had named a main contractor different to the one named, there was no liability . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Insurance, Transport

Updated: 23 November 2021; Ref: scu.223450