Winterbottom was a coachman who drove a horse-pulled mail coach. His employers entered into a contract with Wright to maintain the coach and keep it in good working order. Wright failed to do this, and Winterbottom fell off the coach and injured himself. He sued Wright claiming that a duty arose out of the relating contracts, although they had no contractual relationship to one another.
- Does duty of care extend beyond contracting parties?
Judgment for the defendant.
The judges find that it has always been held that duty does not extend beyond contracting parties. They are unwilling to change this standard because of the potentially unreasonable extension of liability that it could create. They recognize that this is a hard case, because Winterbottom has obviously been wronged, however they find that Wright had no direct duty to the plaintiff as they were not both parties to the contract.
The judges were loathe to find a duty existed between the parties out of a fear that it would lead to a large number of actions and impede industrial development.