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Williams v Natural Life Health Foods

[1998] 1 WLR 830

Case summary last updated at 19/01/2020 14:49 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Williams v Natural Life Health Foods

P wanted to buy a franchise from X and X gave P unrealistic financial projections from D (the managing director) which encouraged P to buy. It also stated the level of expertise required to run the shop based on D’s own experience. HL denied P’s claim against D personally in tort.
Lord Steyn: Henderson established that the Hedley principle of assumption of responsibility was no limited to statements but also to services. This extended version of Hedley was held to be the governing principle in cases of economic loss caused by negligent rendring of services and secondly that once a case fell within the principle it was not necessary to further consider whether it was “fair just and reasonable” to impose a duty. Thirdly there had to be reliance on the assumption of responsibility (otherwise the negligent service was not causative of loss). Fourthly the existence of a contract doesn’t preclude a claim in tort. What does the objective “assumption of responsibility” mean? He quotes Lord Goff (see above). Primary focus is on the dealings between plaintiff and defendant, their conduct etc. Here, the dealings between P and X are not evidence for an assumption of responsibility by D. On reliance, Steyn says that the test is NOT reliance in fact, but whether P “could reasonably rely on an assumption of personal responsibility by the individual who performed the services on behalf of the company”. In this case there was no assumption of responsibility by D AND P did not believe D had undertaken an assumption of responsibility towards them so that P could not reasonably rely on such an assumption of responsibility. 

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