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Farley v Skinner

[2001] 3 WLR 899

Case summary last updated at 04/01/2020 14:17 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Farley v Skinner

F employed S to go to a house that F intended to buy for relaxing weekends and to report on noise levels. S said no noise. In fact house was by a runway and the noise was v loud. HL awarded F £10,000 compensation for “distress and inconvenience”. HL accepted that the contractual breach no longer had to relate to the “sole object” of the contract but to a “distinct and important obligation”

Lord Steyn: Bingham LJ’s dicta in Watts were merely broad guidelines, not rules. Also that case was about defects and general information, whereas this case is about one specific question: noise levels. He agrees with Bingham LJ’s assertion that in general the contract breaker is not liable for frustration, anxiety etc. However there are exceptions: where D has been caused pain, suffering or loss of amenity (this exception defies the rule!). He refutes the assertion that the breach has to relate to “the very object” of the contract (as required in Watts): if a “major or important part” of the contract is to give pleasure or peace of mind, then this is enough. NB though, the only real distinction between this an Watts is the fact that the surveyor was asked about noise specifically here i.e. it was the object of the contract. If Lord Steyn is right about the word “object” then Watt is really being overruled.

Lord Scott: The word “physical” in Bingham LJ’s guiding principles refers to the cause of the discomfort (e.g. being woken up by a plane) i.e. a sensory discomfort, as distinct from a feeling of unhappiness provoked by being sacked, for example.

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