In re Young and Harston’s Contract: CA 1885

The court set out what was meant by the term ‘wilful default’ when used in a contract for the sale of land. Bowen LJ said: ‘Wilful is a word of familiar use in every branch of law, and although in some branches of the law it may have a special meaning, it generally, as used in courts of law implies nothing blameable, but merely that the person of whose action or default the expression is used, is a free agent, and that what has been done arises from the spontaneous action of his will. It amounts to nothing more than this, that he knew what he was doing, and intends to do what he is doing, and is a free agent.’


Bowen LJ


[1885] 80 Ch D 168


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedCP (A Child) v Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Ltd CA 30-Mar-2006
A mill had burned down when children had lit a fire. They had not intended the fire to get out of hand as it did. The insurance company refused to pay out on the basis that the policy did not cover damage arising from ‘any wilful malicious or . .
CitedRonson International Ltd v Patrick CA 30-Mar-2006
The insurance company appealed a finding of liability under a household poliicy where the defendant had set a fire in a factory, but had not intended the eventual disastrous consequences.
Held: To avoid liability under an exclusion clause the . .
CitedPorter v Zurich Insurance Company QBD 5-Mar-2009
The claimant insured his house with the defendants. Severely depressed, drunk and delusional, he set fire to it and now claimed after refusal to pay out. He said that he was not acting as a free agent.
Held: A claimant who seeks to recover . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.241561