Farley v Skinner



''Farley v Skinner'' UKHL_49
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is an English contract law case, concerning the measure and availability of damages for distress.


Mr Farley bought a large estate, Riverside House, in Blackboys, Sussex, not far from Gatwick Airport. It had a croquet lawn, a tennis court, an orchard, a paddock and a swimming pool. It cost £420,000 and after the purchase was complete on 28 February 1991, he spent £125,000 improving it. He also had a flat in London, a house in Brighton and one overseas. He hired Mr Skinner to survey the house, particularly to determine levels of
aircraft noise Aircraft noise pollution refers to noise produced by aircraft in flight that has been associated with several negative stress-mediated health effects, from sleep disorders to cardiovascular ones. Governments have enacted extensive controls that ...
. Skinner reported that the noise was of acceptable level, whereas in reality, at 6 am the noise was intolerable. Holding patterns formed right above the house. This distressed Mr Farley as he often spent early mornings in his garden. The trial judge held that Mr Farley had paid no more than someone who knew of the noise, so there was no financial loss, but awarded £10,000 for distress and discomfort.

Court of Appeal

Court of Appeal A court of appeals, also called a court of appeal, appellate court, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In much of ...
agreed with the defendant's challenge to this ruling, stating that no damages could be awarded for mere inconvenience, and physical discomfort was required to justify damages.

House of Lords

The House of Lords restored the trial judge’s award, because not being put at such inconvenience was an important term. Lord Scott held that if Mr Farley had known about the aircraft noise he would not have bought the property. He could either claim for being deprived of the contractual benefit ('' Ruxley Electronics Ltd v Forsyth''), or he could claim as having consequential loss on breach of contract ('' Watts v Morrow''). He added that if there had been an appreciable reduction in the house’s market value, he could not recover both, which would have been double recovery. Although £10,000 was ‘on the high side’, the value was within the right range.
‘If the cause is no more than disappointment that the contractual obligation has been broken, damages are not recoverable even if the disappointment has led to a complete mental breakdown. But, if the cause of the inconvenience or discomfort is a sensory (sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste) experience, damages can, subject to the remoteness rules, be recovered.’
Referring to the departure of this case from "an ordinary surveyor's contract", Lord Clyde said it was 'the specific provision relating to peacefulness of the property in respect of the aircraft noise which makes the present case out of the ordinary'.Lord Clyde
Farley v. Skinner (2001)
UKHL 49 (11 October 2001), paragraph 42, accessed 31 March 2022
The predominant object test was dispensed with, so it was enough that the term broken was known by both parties to have been important (it did not matter whether the purpose of the contract was to provide peace of mind). So it seems surveyors will not ordinarily be liable when a house is defective and causes distress.


See also

{{Clist remedies *
English contract law English contract law is the body of law that regulates legally binding agreements in England and Wales. With its roots in the lex mercatoria and the activism of the judiciary during the industrial revolution, it shares a heritage with countries ...
*'' Addis v Gramophone Co Ltd'' 909AC 488 *'' Jarvis v Swans Tours Ltd''
973 Year 973 ( CMLXXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. Events By place Byzantine Empire * Spring – The Byzantine army, led by General Melias (Domestic of the S ...
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973 Year 973 ( CMLXXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. Events By place Byzantine Empire * Spring – The Byzantine army, led by General Melias (Domestic of the S ...
1 All ER 71, where purpose of contract to obtain some mental satisfaction *'' Jackson v Horizon Holidays Ltd'', 9753 All ER 92 *'' Johnson v Gore Wood & Co'' 0022 AC 1, 49, (a case actually concerning " reflective loss" in UK company law) it was said contract breaking is an ‘incident of commercial life which players in the game are expected to meet with mental fortitude’ English contract case law English remedy case law House of Lords cases 2001 in case law 2001 in British law