Burton v Pinkerton: 1867

The Plaintiff agreed to serve on the defendant’s ship for twelve months, but left it when the Defendant berthed in a Peruvian port with a cargo which included ammunition, even though Peru was at war with Spain (”two powers at peace with England’). The Plaintiff regarded the proposed voyage as both illegal and more dangerous than he anticipated at the time of entering into his contract. He was imprisoned for some days as a ‘Peruvian deserter” and upon his release discovered that the ship had gone, still with some of his clothes on board. The jury gave damages for both the imprisonment and the clothing.
Held: Both heads of damage were too remote. Baron Bramwell: ‘It is true that in one sense the defendant’s conduct caused the imprisonment: but for that, no doubt, the plaintiff would not have been imprisoned. That, however, is not enough. Suppose, for instance, the plaintiff had met robbers whilst ashore, and been injured by them, he certainly could have recovered nothing from the defendant for such injury, yet the defendant might, in that case also, be said to have caused the damage. According to the ordinary rule, damage to be recoverable by a plaintiff must inevitably flow from the tortious act of the defendant. It must be caused by him as the causa causans, and this imprisonment was not so caused’. The Plaintiff could only recover for lost wages and possibly something for inconvenience. A new trial was ordered as it was impossible to disentangle how much the jury had included under each of the heads.


Baron Bramwell, Baron Martin and Baron Channell


(1867) LR 2 Ex 340


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedWiseman v Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd QBD 29-Jun-2006
The claimant said that he was refused permission to board a flight by the defendants representative without paying a bribe, and was publicly humiliated for not doing so.
Held: Whilst the claimant could recover for his own additional expenses, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Contract

Updated: 17 May 2022; Ref: scu.243286