Krell v Henry: CA 1903

Mr Henry contracted to rent a flat located on Pall Mall from the plaintiff, Paul Krell for the daytime and on the days of the forthcoming cornation procession.. He was told that he would have an excellent view of, but this was not written down. He paid a deposit of andpound;25 but when the procession did not take place refused to pay the balance. Krell claimed the balance, and Henry sought repayment of his deposit.
Held: The court asked whether there was an implied condition that the contract was void if the procession did not take place. Such a condition could be inferred from the surounding circumstances. The parol evidence rule was inapplicable. He examined the substance of the contract, and then determined whether the contract was founded on the assumption of the existence of a particular state of affairs. Krell had only granted Henry a license to use the rooms for a particular purpose (watching the coronation). The court compared the contract to the hire of a cab to get to a race. If the race did not occur on the particular day the passenger had thought, he would not be discharged from paying the driver; but in this case the room here had a special quality. Cancellation of the coronation could not reasonably have been anticipated by the parties at the time the contract was made.
Williams LJ said: ‘I do not think that the principle of the civil law as introduced into the English law is limited to cases in which the event causing the impossibility of performance is the destruction or non-existence of some thing which is the subject matter of the contract or of some condition or state of things expressly specified as a condition of it. I think that you first have to ascertain, not necessarily from the terms of the contract, but, if required, from necessary inferences, drawn from surrounding circumstances recognised by both contracting parties, what is the substance of the contract, and then to ask the question whether that substantial contract needs for its foundation the assumption of the existence of a particular state of things. If it does, this will limit the operation of the general words, and in such a case, if the contract becomes impossible of performance by reason of the non-existence of the state of things assumed by both contracting parties as the foundation of the contract, there will be no breach of the contract thus limited.’

Williams LJ, Romer, Stirling J
(1903) 2 KB 740
England and Wales
CitedTaylor and Another v Caldwell and Another QBD 6-May-1863
The defendants had agreed to hire a hall to give four concerts, but it burned down before they were to start.
Held: Blackburn J said: ‘where, from the nature of the contract, it appears that the parties must from the beginning have known that . .

Cited by:
CitedGraves v Graves and others CA 3-Jul-2007
The parties had divorced and settled financial provision, but the former wife and her children came to need a house and one of the claimant’s properties became vacant, and she was allowed to occupy it as a tenant, with the majority of the rent being . .
CitedMaritime National Fish Ltd v Ocean Trawlers Ltd PC 12-Apr-1935
(Nova Scotia En Banco) The parties contracted for a charter of a fishing ship. It then became unlawful for a ship to use otter trawl, the only equipment available to the ship, without a licence, but the number of licences was restricted and did not . .
CitedGold Group Properties Ltd v BDW Trading Ltd TCC 3-Mar-2010
The parties had contracted for the construction of an estate of houses and flats to be followed by the interim purchase by the defendants. The defendants argued that the slump in land prices frustrated the contract and that they should not be called . .
CitedGamerco Sa v ICM Fair Warning (Agency) Ltd and Another QBD 31-Mar-1995
The plaintiff Spanish concert promoter, and the defendant rock group, Guns ‘n’ Roses, agreed to provide a concert at the stadium of Atetico Madrid, but shortly before it was due to take place, the stadium was deemed unfit, and its licence withdrawn. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.251178