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Chaplin v Hicks

[1911] 2 KB 786

Case summary last updated at 04/01/2020 12:51 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Chaplin v Hicks

D’s breach of contract prevented P from taking part in the final round of a beauty contest where 12 of the final 50 would win a prize. CA upheld the finding that her chances of winning were 25% and she was made an award on this basis. Where D has suffered harm from a breach of contract, it is necessary to provide compensation, no matter how hard it may be to come up with the precise value of the compensation. 
 
Fletcher Moulton LJ: Where a man has an opportunity to win something from a limited class of people, guaranteed to him by contract, he has something of value. Thus the jury has a duty to estimate the value of this opportunity. 
 
Williams LJ: He rejects the impossibility of assessment argument (that it is impossible to say what harm has been done since there was no guarantee of her winning), saying that “the jury must do the best they can, and it may be that the amount of their verdict will really be a matter of guesswork” 
 
Rather than approach by awarding her damages on the basis that she might have won (which really is impossible and, if she wouldn’t have won, would cause D to pay for no harm caused), they should ask what is the inherent value of being able to compete i.e. take the “loss of amenity” approach from Ruxley: What was the value to P of being able to partake in the final, in terms of enjoyment, regardless of whether or not she would have won. 

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