Watts and Co v Morrow: CA 30 Jul 1991

The plaintiff had bought a house on the faith of the defendant’s report that there were only limited defects requiring repair. In fact the defects were much more extensive. The defendant surveyor appealed against an award of damages after his negligent survey of a property. The plaintiff sought damages for distress, and the cost of making good the defects. The appellant argued that he should pay or only the diminution in value of the house by reason of the existence of those defects.
Held: The correct level of damages to be awarded are for the diminution in value of the property with those faults, not the cost of repairing the faults. ‘A contract breaker is not in general liable for any distress, frustration, anxiety, displeasure, vexation, tension or aggravation which his breach of contract may cause to the innocent party. This rule is not, I think, founded on the assumption that such reactions are not foreseeable, which they surely are or may be, but on considerations of policy. But the rule is not absolute. Where the very object of a contract is to provide pleasure, relaxation, peace of mind or freedom from molestation, damages will be awarded if the fruit of the contract is not provided or if the contrary result is procured instead. If the law did not cater for this exceptional category of case it would be defective. A contract to survey the condition of a house for a prospective purchaser does not, however, fall within this exceptional category. In cases not falling within this exceptional category, damages are in my view recoverable for physical inconvenience and discomfort caused by the breach and mental suffering directly related to that inconvenience and discomfort. If those effects are foreseeably suffered during a period when defects are repaired I am prepared to accept that they sound in damages even though the cost of the repairs is not recoverable as such.’ Exceptions mayinclude ‘where the very object of the contract is to provide pleasure, relaxation, peace of mind or freedom from molestation’, but this is an ‘exceptional category’.

Bingham LJ, Sir Stephen Brown LJ, Bingham LJ
Gazette 08-Jan-1992, [1991] 4 All ER 939, [1991] 1 WLR 1421, [1991] EWCA Civ 9
England and Wales
CitedCounty Personnel (Employment Agency) Ltd v Alan R Pulver and Co (a Firm) CA 1987
The claimant sought damages after his negligent solicitors had saddled him with a ruinous underlease. They had had to buy themselves out of the lease. The court considered the date at which damages were to be calculated.
Held: The starting . .
CitedHayes and Another v Dodd CA 7-Jul-1988
The court considered what damages might be paid for inconvenience and distress. . .
CitedSyrett v Carr and Neave 1990
The plaintiff sought damages for a negligent survey.
Held: On the particular facts, it was reasonable for the plaintiffs not to sell but to repair the property and seek the cost of such repairs. . .
CitedDodd Properties (Kent) Ltd v Canterbury City Council CA 21-Dec-1979
The defendants had, in the course of building operations, caused nuisance and damage to the plaintiff’s building. The dispute was very lengthy, the costs of repair increased accordingly, and the parties now disputed the date at which damages fell to . .
CitedPhilips v Ward CA 1956
The Plaintiff had relied on a negligent survey to purchase a substantial Elizabethan property and land. The report did not mention that the timbers of the house were badly affected by death watch beetle and worm so that the only course left to him . .
CitedHayes and Another v Dodd CA 7-Jul-1988
The court considered what damages might be paid for inconvenience and distress. . .
CitedBliss v South East Thames Regional Health Authority CA 1985
General damages cannot be awarded for frustration, mental distress or injured feelings arising from an employer’s breach of the implied term of confidence and trust. Dillon LJ said that damages for mental distress in contract are limited to certain . .
CitedPerry v Sidney Phillips and Son CA 1982
In 1982 the surveyor failed to observe serious defects, including a leaking roof and a septic tank with an offensive smell. The plaintiff purchaser could not afford major repairs and executed only minor repairs himself. At the date of the trial the . .

Cited by:
CitedFarley v Skinner HL 11-Oct-2001
The claimant sought damages from the defendant surveyor. He had asked the defendant whether the house he was to buy was subject to aircraft noise. After re-assurance, he bought the house. The surveyor was wrong and negligent. A survey would not . .
CitedSmith and Another v South Gloucestershire Council CA 31-Jul-2002
The claimants purchased land. The local search did not reveal a planning permission which affected the value of the property by applying an occupancy condition. He claimed compensation. Compensation was eventually agreed to be payable, but the . .
CitedDunnachie v Kingston Upon Hull City Council; Williams v Southampton Institute; Dawson v Stonham Housing Association EAT 8-Apr-2003
EAT Unfair Dismissal – Compensation
In each case, The employee sought additional damages for non-economic loss after an unfair dismissal.
Held: The Act could be compared with the Discrimination Acts . .
CitedEzekiel v McDade CA 1995
As a result of the negligence of their builders, the plaintiffs were rendered homeless persons living in single room council accommodation for a long period. The builder appealed an award of andpound;6,000.
Held: The award should be reduced to . .
CitedBoynton and Another v Willers CA 3-Jul-2003
The appellants challenged a finding that they were liable for their builders’ bill.
Held: Work which had been rejected had not in fact been charged for. The defendant’s appeal on that point failed. The measure of damages for distress and . .
AppliedHamilton Jones v David and Snape (a Firm) ChD 19-Dec-2003
The claimant was represented by the respondent firm of solicitors in an action for custody of her children. Through their negligence the children had been removed from the country. She sought damages for the distress of losing her children.
FollowedVerderame v Commercial Union Assurance Co Plc CA 2-Apr-1992
The insurance brokers, acting to arrange insurance for a small private limited company did not owe a duty in tort to the directors of that company personally. Where an action was brought in a tort and in breach of contract, damages could not be . .
CitedThree Rivers District Council and others v Governor and Company of the Bank of England (No 6) HL 11-Nov-2004
The Bank anticipated criticism in an ad hoc enquiry which was called to investigate its handling of a matter involving the claimant. The claimant sought disclosure of the documents created when the solicitors advised employees of the Bank in . .
CitedWiseman v Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd QBD 29-Jun-2006
The claimant said that he was refused permission to board a flight by the defendants representative without paying a bribe, and was publicly humiliated for not doing so.
Held: Whilst the claimant could recover for his own additional expenses, . .
CitedJohnson v Gore Wood and Co HL 14-Dec-2000
Shareholder May Sue for Additional Personal Losses
A company brought a claim of negligence against its solicitors, and, after that claim was settled, the company’s owner brought a separate claim in respect of the same subject-matter.
Held: It need not be an abuse of the court for a shareholder . .
CitedGrobbelaar v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another CA 18-Jan-2001
The claimant had been awarded andpound;85,000 damages in defamation after the defendant had wrongly accused him of cheating at football. The newspaper sought to appeal saying that the verdict was perverse and the defence of qualified privilege . .
CitedPegasus Management Holdings Sca and Another v Ernst and Young (A Firm) and Another ChD 11-Nov-2008
The claimants alleged professional negligence in advice given by the defendant on a share purchase, saying that it should have been structured to reduce Capital Gains Tax. The defendants denied negligence and said the claim was statute barred.
CitedYearworth and others v North Bristol NHS Trust CA 4-Feb-2009
The defendant hospital had custody of sperm samples given by the claimants in the course of fertility treatment. The samples were effectively destroyed when the fridge malfunctioned. Each claimant was undergoing chemotherapy which would prevent them . .
CitedMilner and Another v Carnival Plc (T/A Cunard) CA 20-Apr-2010
Damages for Disastrous Cruise
The claimants had gone on a cruise organised by the defendants. It was described by them as ‘the trip of a lifetime.’ It did not meet their expectations. There had been several complaints, including that the cabin was noisy as the floor flexed with . .
CitedBacciottini and Another v Gotelee and Goldsmith (A Firm) CA 18-Mar-2016
A property subject to a planning condition was purchased by the appellant under the advice of the respondent, who failed to notify him of the existence of a planning condition. The judge had awarded the claimant pounds 250 being the cost of the . .
CitedDowns and Another v Chappell and Another CA 3-Apr-1996
The plaintiffs had suceeded in variously establishing claims in deceit and negligence, but now appealed against the finding that no damages had flowed from the wrongs. They had been sold a business on the basis of incorrect figures.
Held: . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.90333