The plaintiffs’ factory in an old mill, burned down because Wayne Tank had installed a pipeline made of unsuitable and dangerous plastic material and wrapped in heating tape attached to a useless thermostat. It had been switched on and the plant left unattended. A new factory had to be built. What were the damages to be paid?
Held: The plaintiffs had no choice if they were to continue their business of making plasticine. They were not allowed to rebuild the old mill, so they had to put up a new factory. The defendants said that damages should be limited to the difference in the value of the old mill before and after the fire and that the plaintiffs should not be allowed the cost of replacing it with a new building. This argument was rejected.
Lord Denning MR: ‘If a second-hand car is destroyed, the owner only gets its value; because he can go into the market and get another second-hand car to replace it. He cannot charge the other party with the cost of replacing it with a new car. But when this mill was destroyed, the plasticine company had no choice. They were bound to replace it as soon as they could, not only to keep their business going, but also to mitigate the loss of profit (for which they would be able to charge to defendants). They replaced it in the only possible way, without adding any extras. I think they should be allowed the cost of replacement. True it is that they got new for old; but I do not think the wrongdoer can diminish the claim on that account. If they had added extra accommodation or made extra improvements, they would have to give credit. But that is not this case.’
Widgery LJ remarks on betterment ‘It was clear in the present case that it was reasonable for the plaintiffs to rebuild their factory, because there was no other way in which they could carry on their business and retain their labour force. The plaintiffs rebuilt their factory to a substantially different design, and if this had involved expenditure beyond the cost of replacing the old, the difference might not have been recoverable, but there is no suggestion of this here. Nor do I accept that the plaintiffs must give credit under the heading of ‘betterment’ for the fact that their new factory is modern in design and materials. To do so would be the equivalent of forcing the plaintiffs to invest their money in the modernising of their plant which might be highly inconvenient for them. Accordingly I agree with the sum allowed by the trial judge as the cost of replacement.’
Cross LJ: ‘I can well understand that if the plaintiffs in rebuilding the factory with a different and more convenient lay-out had spent more money than they would have spent had they rebuilt it according to the old plan, the defendants would have been entitled to claim that the excess should be deducted in calculating the damages. But the defendants did not call any evidence to make out a case of betterment on these lines and we were told that in fact the planning authorities would not have allowed the factory to be rebuilt on the old lines. Accordingly, in my judgment, the capital sum awarded by the judge was right.’
Lord Denning MR, Widgery LJ, Cross LJ
 1 QB 447,  1 All ER 225,  2 WLR 198,  1 Lloyds Rep 15
England and Wales
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The parties had been involved in a road traffic accident. The defendant drove into the claimant’s parked car. The claimant was unable to afford to hire a car pending repairs being completed, and arranged to hire a car on credit. He now sought . .
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Standard Conract – Wide Exclusions, Apply 1977 Act
The claimant had acquired a computer system from the defendant, which had failed. It was admitted that the contract had been broken, and the court set out to decide the issue of damages.
Held: Even though Wang had been ready to amend one or . .
Cited – Bacon v Cooper (Metals) Ltd 1982
A machine, a fragmentiser was broken. The defendant had supplied unsuitable scrap to be fed into the machine in breach of contract. The rotor had broken which would normally have had a life of 7 years of which it had nearly four years to run. The . .
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Car hire companies who pursued actions in motorists’ names to recover the costs of hiring a replacement vehicle after an accident, from negligent drivers, were not acting in a champertous and unlawful manner. Lord Mustill said: ‘there exists in . .
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The claimant sought payment for damages to his property after he had hired it out to a film production company.
Held: the claim for repair of damage to the driveway did not include any element of improvement. . .
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Orders were placed for the construction of ships. They were not delivered. The buyer, the defendant, cancelled the orders. The defendants sought the loss of profit. The claimants said they were entitled only to the repayment of instalments. The . .
Cited – Petroleo Brasileiro Sa v Ene Kos 1 Ltd (‘The MT Kos’) SC 2-May-2012
The MT Kos had been chartered by the appellants. The respondents failed to make payments, and notice was given to withdraw the vessel. The contract said that such a notice was without prejudice to any claim. At the time, the vessel was laden. The . .
Cited – Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd HL 14-Feb-1980
Interpretation of Exclusion Clauses
The plaintiffs had contracted with the defendants for the provision of a night patrol service for their factory. The perils the parties had in mind were fire and theft. A patrol man deliberately lit a fire which burned down the factory. It was an . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.188638