Way v Latilla: HL 1937

Mr Way (W), the plaintiff, was employed by Ariston, which had mining operations in Africa, as a consulting engineer and manager. He met the respondent (L) in England. He was asked to seek options to acquire concessions the respondent might acquire. In return, he was promised a share. W returned and acquired concessions. They agreed his reward would be decided on returning, and L promised W a substantial interest in his new Trust copany. They agreed no amount, but only that he should receive a share of the concessions. W now sought his remuneration. At trial he was awarded andpound;30,000 on the basis of a contract between the parties. The court of appeal disagreed and held that no contract was made.
Held: There was no concluded contract, and the court could not complete one for the parties but that W was entitled to remuneration on a quantum meruit. The question was the amount of the award. The CA said, applyig evidence from consulting mining engineers, that the proper award was a fee of andpound;600.
Lord Atkin said that the CA decision ignored the real business position, and that the award was to be fixed by reference to the approach to remuneration adopted by the parties: ‘My Lords, this decision appears to me to ignore the real business position. Services of this kind are no doubt usually the subject of an express contract as to remuneration, which may take the form of a fee, but may also take the form of a commission share of profits, or share of proceeds calculated at a percentage, or on some other basis. In the present case, there was no question of fee between the parties from beginning to end. On the contrary, the parties had discussed remuneration on the footing of what may loosely be called a ‘participation,’ and nothing else. The reference is analogous to the well known distinction between salary and commission. There are many employments the remuneration of which is, by trade usage, invariably fixed on a commission basis. In such cases, if the amount of the commission has not been finally agreed, the quantum meruit would be fixed after taking into account what would be a reasonable commission, in the circumstances, and fixing a sum accordingly. This has been an everyday practice in the courts for years. But, if no trade usage assists the court as to the amount of the commission, it appears to me clear that the court may take into account the bargainings between the parties, not with a view to completing the bargain for them, but as evidence of the value which each of them puts upon the services. If the discussion had ranged between 3 per cent on the one side and 5 per cent on the other, all else being agreed, the court would not be likely to depart from somewhere about those figures, and would be wrong in ignoring them altogether and fixing remuneration on an entirely different basis, upon which, possibly, the services would never have been rendered at all. That, in fixing a salary basis, the court may pay regard to the previous conversation of the parties was decided by the Court of Exchequer in 1869, in Scarisbrick v Parkinson, where the terms of an agreement, invalid under the Statute of Frauds, were held to be admissible as evidence in a quantum meruit. This seems to me to be good law, and to give effect to a principle which has been adopted regularly by the courts not only in fixing remuneration for services but also in fixing prices, sums due for use and occupation, and, indeed, in all cases where the court has to determine what is a reasonable reward for the consideration given by the claimant. As I have said, the rule applied in fixing the amount of the remuneration necessarily applies to the basis on which the amount is to be fixed. I have therefore no hesitation in saying that the basis of remuneration by fee should, in this case, on the evidence of the parties themselves, be rejected, and that Mr Way is entitled to a sum to be calculated on the basis of some reasonable participation.’ He fixed the award at andpound;5,000.
Lord Wright said that the court had to do its best to arrive at a figure which was fair and reasonable to both parties on all the facts of the case. He continued: ‘One aspect of the facts to be considered is found in the communings of the parties while the business was going on. Evidence of this nature is admissible to show what the parties had in mind, however indeterminately, with regard to the basis of remuneration. On those facts, the court may be able to infer, or attribute to the parties, an intention that a certain basis of payment should apply. This evidence seems to me to show quite clearly that the appellant was employed on the basis of receiving a remuneration depending on results. If he had been unsuccessful, he would have been entitled to no more than his expenses, but the respondent had led him to believe that, if the concessions he obtained were valuable, his remuneration would be on the basis of some proportion of their value.’ and ‘While it is not unknown that such services should be remunerated by a fee if it is expressly or impliedly so agreed, this is by no means necessarily, and would not generally be, the case. The idea of such a fee being excluded, it follows that the question of the amount to which the appellant is entitled is left at large, and the court must do the best it can to arrive at a figure which seems to it fair and reasonable to both parties, on all the facts of the case. One aspect of the facts to be considered is found in the communings of the parties while the business was going on. Evidence of this nature is admissible to show what the parties had in mind, however indeterminately, with regard to the basis of remuneration. On those facts, the court may be able to infer, or attribute to the parties, an intention that a certain basis of payment should apply.’
Lord Atkin, Lord Wright
[1937] 3 All ER 759
England and Wales
Cited by:

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    The defendant wanted to amend its software and introduce it to the Japanese market, and worked with the claimants for this purpose. The defendant suggested that a concluded agreement existed, the claimant that only no contract was concluded. There . .
    [2002] EWHC 818 (Ch)
  • Cited – Kenneth L Kellar Carib West Limited v Stanley A Williams PC 24-Jun-2004
    (Turks and Caicos Islands) The appellant had failed in his action but argued that he should not be called upon to pay the costs of the respondent because there had been an unlawful conditional fee agreement. The bill had referred to one factor as . .
    [2004] UKPC 30, [2005] 4 Costs LR 559, (2004) 148 SJLB 821
  • Cited – Hunt and Another v McLaren and others ChD 4-Oct-2006
    Land had been given to a football club under a trust for its exclusive use as such. That land was sold and a new ground acquired and a stadium built, but the land was subject to restrictive covenenats limiting its use to sports, which considerably . .
    [2006] EWHC 2386 (Ch)
  • Cited – Stack v AJAT-Tec Ltd EAT 8-Jul-2011
    EAT JURISDICTIONAL POINTS – Worker, employee or neither
    Employment Judge wrongly held that claimant could not as a matter of law be party to a contract, either of service or for services, in circumstances . .
    [2011] UKEAT 0527 – 10 – 0807
  • Cited – BP Exploration Co (Libya) Ltd v Hunt (No. 2) 1982
    The court considered the application of interest to damages: ‘the basic principle . . that interest will be awarded from the date of loss’ and ‘the mere fact that it is impossible for the defendant to quantify the sum due until judgment has been . .
    [1982] 1 All ER 925
  • Cited – Radford and Another v Frade and Others QBD 8-Jul-2016
    The court was asked as to the terms on which solicitors and Counsel were retained to act for the defendants. The appeals did not raise any issues concerning costs practice, and were by way of review of the Costs Judge’s rulings, and not by way of . .
    [2016] EWHC 1600 (QB)

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 December 2020; Ref: scu.181805