Keppel v Wheeler: CA 1927

The plaintiff engaged the defendant estate agents to sell a property, instructing them to market it at 6,500 pounds but that he would accept 6,000 pounds. The plaintiff accepted an offer of 6,150 pounds ‘subject to contract’. Before exchange, another potential buyer offered 6,750 pounds. Instead of communicating that offer to their principal, the agents went to the original offeror, suggesting he could sell on and make a profit. They did so in good faith, believing that they had already fulfilled their duty to their principal, not understanding that only formal exchange of contract brings their duty to an end.
Held: The plaintiff was awarded damages for breach of the agents’ duty. These were the difference between the two prices, namely 600 pounds less the extra commission which that 600 pounds would have earned. But the plaintiff had to pay commission on the sale itself.
Bankes LJ said: ‘The appellant contended that the agents have disentitled themselves to recover the commission, but I do not take that view at all. It seems to me that an agent might quite properly claim his commission, and yet have to pay damages for committing a bona fide mistake which amounts to a breach of duty. In these circumstances, I think the respondents are entitled to the claim which they make for commission.’
Atkin LJ said: ‘The other question is whether the respondents should succeed on their counterclaim. Now I am quite clear that if an agent in the course of his employment has been proved to be guilty of some breach of fiduciary duty, in practically every case he would forfeit any right to remuneration at all. That seems to me to be well established. On the other hand, there may well be breaches of duty which do not go to the whole contract, and which would not prevent the agent from recovering his remuneration; and as in this case it is found that the agents acted in good faith, and as the transaction was completed and the appellant has had the benefit of it, he must pay the commission. Therefore, I think, the defendants are entitled to recover on their counterclaim.’


Bankes LJ, Atkin LJ


[1927] 1 KB 577


England and Wales

Cited by:

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Management fees were to be forfeited for breach of a fiduciary duty by an agent. . .
CitedHosking v Marathon Asset Management Llp ChD 5-Oct-2016
Loss of agent’s share for breach within LLP
The court was asked whether the principle that a fiduciary (in particular, an agent) who acts in breach of his fiduciary duties can lose his right to remuneration, is capable of applying to profit share of a partner in a partnership or a member of a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.282639