The Owners of No 7 Steam Sand, Pump Dredger v The Owners of SS ‘Greta Holme’: HL 1897

The plaintiff’s vessel, a sand dredger, was being used to deepen the river near the landing stage. It was damaged in a collision with the ‘Greta Holme’, for which the latter was solely responsible. The dredger was out of action for fifteen weeks and was available only for use as a hopper barge for a further sixteen days while repairs to her machinery were completed. Since the owners were not an ordinary trading organisation and had not obtained a temporary replacement, they were unable to show that they were out of pocket and were thus unable to make a conventional claim for special damages in respect of the period during which the dredger was unavailable for use.
Held: Even though they could not show that they had suffered any specific loss, the owners were entitled to recover damages for loss of use of the dredger. Lord Halsbury regarded it as axiomatic that the owner of property could recover damages for loss of use in such a situation, even though he could not show that he had suffered any specific loss.

Lord Herschell said: ‘I take it to be clear law that in general a person who has been deprived of the use of a chattel through the wrongful act of another is entitled to recover damages in respect thereof, even though he cannot prove what has been called ‘tangible pecuniary loss’, by which I understand is meant that he is a definite sum of money out of pocket owing to the wrong he has sustained. This was not disputed.’ and
‘If the appellants had hired a dredger instead of purchasing one, and had during the months they were deprived of its use been bound to pay for its hire, it cannot be doubted that the sums so paid could have been recovered. How can they the less be entitled to damages because, instead of hiring a dredger, they invested their money in its purchase? The money so invested was out of their pockets, and they were deprived of the use of the dredger, to obtain which they had sacrificed the interest on the money spent on its purchase. A sum equivalent to this, at least, they must surely be entitled to. But I think they are also entitled to general damages in respect of the delay and prejudice caused to them in carrying out the works entrusted to them. It is true these damages cannot be measured by any scale; but that would be equally true in the case of damages in respect of the deprivation of an individual of a chattel which he had purchased for purposes of comfort and not profit.’

Lord Herschell
[1897] AC 596
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedLagden v O’Connor HL 4-Dec-2003
The parties had been involved in a road traffic accident. The defendant drove into the claimant’s parked car. The claimant was unable to afford to hire a car pending repairs being completed, and arranged to hire a car on credit. He now sought . .
CitedCarlton Greer v Alstons Engineering Sales and Services Limited PC 19-Jun-2003
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The claimant had bought an expensiv agriucltural tool (a hoe) from the defendants. It was defective and her returned it repeatedly for repair. Eventually they refused to allow him to test . .
CitedWest Midlands Travel Ltd v Aviva Insurance UK Ltd CA 18-Jul-2013
The claimant bus operator sought damages after one of its buses was off the road for several weeks. It made a claim for general damages for loss of use, using for that purpose a formula produced by the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, which, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.188652