Heskell v Continental Express Ltd: 1950

The court discussed how a warranty of authority could arise in an agent: ‘An agent who warrants that he has authority need warrant no more than the bare fact. In the absence of special circumstances, he makes no warranty or representation about how he got his authority, whether it is express or implied, specific or general. Still less does he warrant that an event, on which the proper exercise of a general authority may depend, has in fact taken place.’ Two causes of the damage at issue were equally operative ‘in that if either had ceased the damage would have ceased’: Where the wrong is a tort, it is clearly settled that the wrongdoer cannot excuse himself by pointing to another cause. It is enough that the tort should be a cause and it is unnecessary to evaluate competing causes and ascertain which of them is dominant . . In the case of breach of contract the position is not so clear . . . Whatever the true rule of causation may be I am satisfied that if a breach of contract is one of two causes, both co-operating and both of equal efficacy, as I find in this case, it is sufficient to carry judgment for damages. Reischer v Borwick [1894] 2 QB 548 establishes that for the purposes of a contract of insurance it is sufficient if an insured event is, in this sense, a co-operating cause of the loss. I do not think that Yorkshire Dale SS Co Ltd v Minister of War Transport [1942] AC 691, with its insistence on the ascertainment of ‘the cause’, disapproved this principle. The case decided that the cause of a loss has to be ascertained by the standard of common sense of the ordinary man. Common sense is a blunt instrument not suited for probing into minute points, and I cannot believe that if the ordinary man thinks that two causes are of approximately equal efficacy, he cannot say so without being interrogated on fine distinctions.


Devlin J


[1950] 1 All ER 1033


England and Wales


CitedMinister of Pensions v Chennell 1946
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Cited by:

AppliedPlant Construction Plc v Clive Adams Associates, JMH Construction Services (2) TCC 31-Mar-2000
The case had been remitted to the court to settle the apportionment of damages in a case of breach of contract, rather than in tort. When assessing levels of contribution causation alone is important but not the entire criteria. In cases where both . .
CitedHedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Agency

Updated: 12 May 2022; Ref: scu.181232