South Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd etc: HL 24 Jun 1996

Limits of Damages for Negligent Valuations

Damages for negligent valuations are limited to the foreseeable consequences of advice, and do not include losses arising from a general fall in values. Valuation is seldom an exact science, and within a band of figures valuers may differ without one of them being negligent. But once the valuer has been found to have been negligent, the loss for which he is responsible is that which has been caused by the valuation being wrong. A negligent valuer is not necessarily liable for the whole of the loss in such circumstances. The correct approach has been held to be to ascertain what element of loss suffered as a result of the transaction was attributable to the inaccuracy of the information supplied by the valuer. For this purpose the valuation negligently provided is to be compared with the figure which a reasonable valuer, using the information available at the relevant time, would have put forward as its most likely open market value. Thus the valuer may escape liability for a subsequent fall in market values. The court discussed the ‘mountaineer’s knee’: ‘A mountaineer about to undertake a difficult climb is concerned about the fitness of his knee. He goes to a doctor who negligently makes a superficial examination and pronounces the knee fit. The climber goes on the expedition, which he would not have undertaken if the doctor had told him the true state of his knee. He suffers an injury which is an entirely foreseeable consequence of mountaineering but has nothing to do with his knee . . on what I have suggested is the more usual principle, the doctor is not liable. The injury has not been caused by the doctors bad advice because it would have occurred if the advice had been correct’.
Lord Hoffmann: ‘Before one can consider the principle on which one should calculate the damages to which a plaintiff is entitled as compensation for loss, it is necessary to decide for what kind of loss he is entitled to compensation . . Rules which make the wrongdoer liable for all the consequences of his wrongful conduct are exceptional and need to be justified by some special policy. Normally the law limits liability to those consequences which are attributable to that which made the act wrongful.’
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘The Court of Appeal (Banque Bruxelles Lambert SA v Eagle Star Insurance Co Ltd and other appeals [1995] 2 All ER 769, [1995] QB 375) decided that in a case in which the lender would not otherwise have lent (which they called a ‘no-transaction’ case), he is entitled to recover the difference between the sum which he lent, together with a reasonable rate of interest, and the net sum which he actually got back. The valuer bears the whole risk of a transaction which, but for his negligence, would not have happened. He is therefore liable for all the loss attributable to a fall in the market. They distinguished what they called a ‘successful transaction’ case, in which the evidence shows that if the lender had been correctly advised, he would still have lent a lesser sum on the same security. In such a case, the lender can recover only the difference between what he has actually lost and what he would have lost if he had lent the lesser amount. Since the fall in the property market is a common element in both the actual and the hypothetical calculations, it does not increase the valuer’s liability.
The valuers appeal. They say that a valuer provides an estimate of the value of the property at the date of the valuation. He does not undertake the role of a prophet. It is unfair that merely because for one reason or other the lender would not otherwise have lent, the valuer should be saddled with the whole risk of the transaction, including a subsequent fall in the value of the property.

Lord Hoffmann, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead
Gazette 04-Sep-1996, Times 24-Jun-1996, [1997] AC 191, [1996] PNLR 455, [1996] 27 EG 125, [1996] UKHL 10, [1996] 3 WLR 87, [1996] 3 All ER 365, [1996] 2 EGLR 93, 80 BLR 1, [1996] 5 Bank LR 211, [1996] CLC 1179, [1996] 50 Con LR 153
England and Wales
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The plaintiffs were mortgagees. The defendants were valuers. The defendants negligently over-valued properties and the plaintiffs then accepted mortgages of the properties. Later the property market collapsed and the various borrowers defaulted and . .
Appeal fromCraneheath Securities v York Montague CA 1996
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Professional Negligence, Banking

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.89405