Vita Food Products Inc v Unus Shipping Co Ltd: PC 30 Jan 1939

(Nova Scotia) Goods were shipped from Newfoundland under a bill of lading which contained an exemption for loss caused by the servants of the carrier. This exemption was void by the law of Newfoundland, whose legislature had enacted the Hague Rules, but the action was brought in Nova Scotia where the courts had to apply the proper law of the contract contained in its bill of lading – English law – by which the exemption clause was valid. Lord Wright: ‘But whatever view a Newfoundland Court might take, whether they would hold that the contracts contained in the bills of lading must be taken to have incorporated the Hague Rules or whether they would hold them to have been illegal, the result would be the same in the present case, where the action was brought not in a Newfoundland but in a Nova Scotian Court. It may be that, if suit were brought on these bills of lading in a Newfoundland Court, and the Court held they were illegal, the Court would refuse to give effect to them, on the basis that a Court is bound to obey the laws of its own Legislature or its own common law . . But it does not follow that any other Court could properly act in the same way. If it has before it a contract good by its own law or by the proper law of the contract, it will in proper cases give effect to the contract and ignore the foreign law.’
Lord Wright said: ‘Each case has to be considered on its merits. Nor must it be forgotten that the rule by which contracts not expressly forbidden by statute or declared to be void are in proper cases nullified for disobedience to a statute is a rule of public policy only, and public policy understood in a wider sense may at times be better served by refusing to nullify a bargain save on serious and sufficient grounds.’


Lord Wright


[1939] AC 277, [1939] UKPC 7





Cited by:

CitedOT Africa Line Ltd v Magic Sportswear Corporation and others CA 13-Jun-2005
The parties to a contract had agreed that the proper law for the contract was England. One party commenced proceedings in Canada, and the courts of Canada had accepted jurisdiction as the most appropriate and convenient forum to resolve the dispute. . .
CitedLes Laboratoires Servier and Another v Apotex Inc and Others SC 29-Oct-2014
Ex turpi causa explained
The parties had disputed the validity a patent and the production of infringing preparations. The english patent had failed and damages were to be awarded, but a Canadian patent remained the defendant now challenged the calculation of damages for . .
CitedVizcaya Partners Ltd v Picard and Another PC 3-Feb-2016
No Contractual Obligation to Try Case in New York
(Gibraltar) The appellant had invested in a fraudulent Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff. They were repaid sums before the fund collapsed, and the trustees now sought repayment by way of enforcement of an order obtained in New York.
Held: The . .
CitedPatel v Mirza SC 20-Jul-2016
The claimant advanced funds to the respondent for him to invest in a bank of which the claimant had insider knowledge. In fact the defendant did not invest the funds, the knowledge was incorrect. The defendant however did not return the sums . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contract, Jurisdiction

Updated: 02 May 2022; Ref: scu.228196