Bilbie v Lumley and Others; 28 Jun 1802

References: (1802) 2 East 469, [1802] EngR 245, (1802) 102 ER 448
Links: Commonlii
Coram: Lord Ellenborough CJ
Ratio An underwriter paid a claim under a policy which he was entitled in law to repudiate for non-disclosure. Although he knew the relevant facts, he was not aware of their legal significance. He claimed back the money he had paid.
Held: A contract cannot be set aside on the grounds of a mistake as to the law. Whereas money paid under a mistake of fact is generally recoverable, as a general rule money is not recoverable on the ground that it was paid under a mistake of law.
Lord Ellenborough asked counsel for the plaintiff: ‘whether he could state any case where if a party paid money to another voluntarily with a full knowledge of all the facts of the case, he could recover it back again on account of his ignorance of the law.’ In the absence of an answer, judgment was given for the defendant: ‘Every man must be taken to be cognisant of the law; otherwise there is no saying to what extent the excuse of ignorance might not be carried. It would be urged in almost every case.’
This case cites:

  • Cited – Lowry -v- Boirdeau ((1780) 2 Doug KB 468)
    ‘ignorantia juris non excusat’ – ignorance of the law is no excuse. . .

(This list may be incomplete)
This case is cited by:

  • Overruled – Hazell -v- Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council HL ([1992] 2 AC 1, [1991] 2 WLR 372, [1991] 1 All ER 545)
    The authority entered into interest rate swap deals to protect itself against adverse money market movements. They began to lose substantial amounts when interest rates rose, and the district auditor sought a declaration that the contracts were . .
  • Cited – Andre & Cie -v- Michel Blanc CA ([1979] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 427)
    The court criticised the doctrine that a mistake as to the law, common to the parties, does not vitiate a contract. . .
  • Cited – The Amazonia CA ([1991] Lloyd’s Rep 236)
    The court rehearsed the doctrine that a common mistake as to the law would vitiate a contract, Though the rule was well established, the particular contract was void on the basis of a mistake as to foreign law because foreign law is to be treated by . .
  • Cited – Brennan -v- Bolt Burdon and Others, London Borough of Islington, Leigh Day & Co CA (Bailii, [2004] EWCA Civ 1017, Times 27-Aug-04, [2005] QB 303, [2004] 3 WLR 1321)
    The claimant sought damages for injury alleged to have been suffered as tenant of a house after being subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning, and also from her former solicitors for their delay in her claim. The effective question was whether the . .
  • Overruled – Kleinwort Benson Ltd -v- Lincoln City Council etc HL (Gazette 18-Nov-98, Gazette 10-Feb-99, Times 30-Oct-98, House of Lords, Bailii, [1998] UKHL 38, [1999] 2 AC 349, [1998] 4 All ER 513, [1998] 3 WLR 1095, [1998] Lloyds Rep Bank 387)
    Kleinwort Benson had made payments to a local authority under swap agreements which were thought to be legally enforceable. Subsequently, a decision of the House of Lords, (Hazell v. Hammersmith and Fulham) established that such swap agreements were . .
  • Cited – Woolwich Equitable Building Society -v- Inland Revenue Commissioners (2) HL ([1993] AC 70, [1992] 3 All ER 737, (1992) 3 WLR 366)
    The society had set out to assert that regulations were unlawful in creating a double taxation. It paid money on account of the tax demanded. It won and recovered the sums paid, but the revenue refused to pay any interest accrued on the sums paid. . .
  • Applied – Brisbane -v- Dacres ((1813) 5 Taunt. 143)
    The commander of a naval vessel, HMS Arethusa, had paid to the Admiral in command a proportion of freight received for the carriage of publicly owned bullion on board the Arethusa in the belief that this was due to the Admiral as a matter of usage. . .
  • Cited – Kelly -v- Solari CexC ((1841) 9 M & W 54)
    Recovery was sought of money (£200) paid an error of fact. There had been a life policy, but it had lapsed before the death of the life assured. The policy had been marked ‘lapsed’ but the marking had been overlooked.
    Held: Where money . .

(This list may be incomplete)

Last Update: 25-Mar-16
Ref: 199748