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Winterbottom v Wright

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Winterbottom v Wright
UK

Citation

Winterbottom v Wright (1842), 152 ER 402

Plaintiff

Winterbottom, a coachman

Defendant

Wright, a contractor

Year

1842

Court

Court of Exchequer

Judges

Lord Abinger and Barons Alderson, Gurney, and Rolfe

Country

United Kingdom

Area of law

Duty of care

Issue

Does duty of care extend beyond contracting parties?

FactsEdit

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.

IssueEdit

  1. Does duty of care extend beyond contracting parties?

DecisionEdit

Judgment for the defendant.

ReasonsEdit

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.

NotesEdit

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.

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