Bray v Ford: HL 1896

An appellate court’s power to order a new trial is conditional on ‘some substantial wrong or miscarriage’ being established.
Lord Hershell said: ‘It is an inflexible rule of the court of equity that a person in a fiduciary position, such as the plaintiff’s, is not, unless otherwise expressly provided, entitled to make a profit; he is not allowed to put himself in a position where his interest and duty conflict. It does not appear to me that this rule is, as has been said, founded upon principles of morality. I regard it rather as based on the consideration that, human nature being what it is, there is danger, in such circumstances, of the person holding a fiduciary position being swayed by interest rather than by duty, and thus prejudicing those whom he was bound to protect. It has, therefore, been deemed expedient to lay down this positive rule. But I am satisfied that it might be departed from in many cases, without any breach of morality, without any wrong being inflicted, and without any consciousness of wrong-doing. Indeed, it is obvious that it might sometimes be to the advantage of the beneficiaries that their trustee should act for them professionally rather than a stranger, even though the trustee were paid for his services.’
Lord Halsbury LC: What ws required was something sufficiently serious to render the decision of the jury unsafe amounting to ‘a substantial wrong’ in which ‘the defendant was not permitted to present his case to the jury with the argument that his original complaint was true’.
Lord Herschell discussed the approach to damages in defamation cases: ‘The damages cannot be measured by any standard known to the law; they must be determined by a consideration of all the circumstances of the case, viewed in the light of the law applicable to them. The latitude is very wide. It would often be impossible to say that the verdict was a wrong one, whether the damages were assessed at andpound;500 or andpound;1,000.’


Lord Herschell, Lord Halsbury LC


[1895-99] All ER Rep 1011, [1896] AC 44


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedPhipps v Boardman HL 3-Nov-1966
A trustee has a duty to exploit any available opportunity for the trust. ‘Rules of equity have to be applied to such a great diversity of circumstances that they can be stated only in the most general terms and applied with particular attention to . .
CitedWhite v White CA 21-Jun-2001
A family had occupied a council house. They purchased the property under the right to buy scheme, with financial assistance from a son, who having paid the mortgage was to allow his parents to live in the house, but then it was to become his. The . .
CitedNewgate Stud Company, Newgate Stud Farm Llc v Penfold, Penfold Bloodstock Limited ChD 21-Dec-2004
The claimants sought damages from the defendant. He had been employed to manage their horse-racing activities, and it was alleged that he had made secret profits. The defendant denied any dishonesty, saying all matters were known to the deceased . .
CitedRatiu, Karmel, Regent House Properties Ltd v Conway CA 22-Nov-2005
The claimant sought damages for defamation. The defendant through their company had accused him acting in such a way as to allow a conflict of interest to arise. They said that he had been invited to act on a proposed purchase but had used the . .
CitedCairns v Modi CA 31-Oct-2012
Three appeals against the levels of damages awards were heard together, and the court considered the principles to be applied.
Held: In assessing compensation following a libel, the essential question was how much loss and damage did the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Equity, Litigation Practice, Damages, Defamation

Updated: 27 April 2022; Ref: scu.180411