Andrews v Hopkinson

 

[1956] 3 All ER 422

Leeds Assizes

 

Andrews bought a car from Hopkinson on hire purchase. Before buying the car Hopkinson said to Andrews

 

'It's a good little bus. I would stake my life on it. You will have no trouble with it.'

 

The hire purchase agreement provided that Andrews' acceptance of delivery should be conclusive that the vehicle was complete and in good order and condition and in every way satisfactory. On the same day Andrews signed a delivery note acknowledging that he had taken delivery of the car and was satisfied as to its condition. A week later Andrews was driving the car when it suddenly swerved and collided with a lorry. The car was wrecked and Andrews was seriously injured. When the police examined the car they found the steering mechanism to be seriously defective. Andrews sued Hopkinson for breach of an express warranty that the car was in good condition and reasonably safe and fit to use on the public highway.

 

The issue before the court was whether the clause in the hire purchase agreement which stated that Andrews acceptance of delivery should be conclusive that the vehicle was complete and in good order and condition and in every way satisfactory rendered of no effect Hopkinson's promise that the car was a 'good little bus' etc.

 

McNair J

 

In these circumstances the plaintiff brings his action against the defendant, basing his claim on three grounds. First he claims that the defendant warranted that the car was in good condition and reasonably safe and fit for use on the public highway, that the plaintiff acted on this warranty, and that damage was caused by breach of the warranty...

 

As to breach of warranty, in the first place it is clear that in law the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant was not a relationship of seller and purchaser. The hire-purchase transaction, evidenced in the documents, was a reality and cannot be treated as a mere colourable transaction: see Drury v Victor Buckland, Ltd. Secondly, I am satisfied (i) applying the principle stated by Holt, CJ, in Crosse v Gardner, and Medina v Stoughton, that, if the transaction between the plaintiff and the defendant had been in law a sale, the words deposed to by the plaintiff as being the words used by Mr. Hopkinson junior could properly be held to be words of warranty, IE, an affirmation made at the time of sale intended to be a warranty; (ii) that the words amounted at least to a warranty that the car was in good condition and reasonably safe and fit for use on a public highway; and (iii) that the plaintiff acted on this warranty in the sense that without it he would not have accepted delivery of the car or entered into the hire-purchase agreement.

 

On these findings I adopt the reasoning of Jones, J., in Brown v Sheen & Richmond Car Sales, Ltd, and follow my own decision in Shanklin Pier, Ltd. v Detel Products, where I set out at some length the reasons that led me to the conclusion (as they do in this case) that there may be an enforceable warranty between A, the intended purchaser of a car, and B, the motor dealer, supported by the consideration that B should cause the hire-purchase finance company to enter into a hire-purchase agreement with A, the intended purchaser.

 

It was rather faintly argued that even on these findings the defendant would only be liable for the difference in value between the car as delivered and the car as warranted. Although this may be the prima facie measure of damages in an ordinary case of breach of warranty in the sale of goods, I feel no doubt at all that on the facts of this case the whole of the damages can fairly be considered as loss directly and naturally resulting in the ordinary course of events from the breach of warranty and so recoverable as damages for breach. I hold, accordingly, that as damages for breach of warranty the plaintiff is entitled to judgment for £645 5s. 6d.