Charnock v Liverpool Corporation

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date18 June 1968
Judgment citation (vLex)[1968] EWCA Civ J0618-4
Date18 June 1968

[1968] EWCA Civ J0618-4

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

The Court Of Appeal

(Civil Division)

(From: The Presiding Judge-Liverpool Court of Passage)


Lord Justice Harman

Lord Justice Salmon and

Lord Justice Winn

William Charnock
The Lord Mayor Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Liverpool
Kirbys (Commercial) Limited

Mr. R.R. LEECH (instructed by Messrs. Jaques & Co., Agents for Messrs. Toulmin, Hodgson & Brabner, Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Second Defendants).

Mr. EDWARD JONES (instructed by Messrs. Helder, Roberts & Co., Agents for Messrs. John A. Behn, Twyford & Co., Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Plaintiff.

Mr. MICHAEL MORLAND (instructed by Messrs. Cree, Godfrey & Wood, Agents for Mr. Stanley Holmes, Town Clerk, Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Respondents the First Defendants.


This is an appeal from a decision of the learned judge of the Court of Passage at Liverpool involving the princely sum of £53. It has involved the Court in argument stretching over more than a day. The facts are very simple. The plaintiff, who is some kind of trade union official, was driving his motor car on his own avocation when he came into contact with a vehicle owned by the first defendants, the Corporation of Liverpool, who admit that they are liable for that collision. They made it clear that the damages they would pay would only he damages which reasonably flowed from that collision and the plaintiff, being advised I suppose that he might not recover the whole sum which he claimed from the first defendants joined the second defendants. The second defendants are people who are garage owners in the city. They had had the custom of the plaintiff before; he had a high opinion of the quality of their work and was very anxious to send his car to them for repair. He had had repairs of a similar kind done a few years ago and they had taken between three and five weeks to complete.


When the plaintiff took his car round to the second defendants' garage it was still in running order of a kind and they made a few temporary adjustments and sent him home with it, on the footing that if he brought it back the next day they would see to it for him. He thereupon took it home and brought it back next morning and by arrangement met at the garage the assessor for his insurance company this being a common kind of arrangement in cases where there is an insurance policy and one very much approved of I think by garages, who will thus know from the start what the insurance company will tolerate in the way of expense on repairs, because it is universally assumed that the insurance company will pay whatever is proper and it is very undesirable for garages to have arguments with insurers about that kind of matter. It is quite true that in many cases the assessor of the insurance company does not come round till a few days later but this was a case where the plaintiff was veryanxious to get his car repaired and he got the assessor to come round and they met at the garage on that morning. As a result the assessor asked a number of questions and suggested a certain amount of stripping work to be done at once in order that it might be seen what the proper cost would be.


In the upshot, some documents came into existence which are, we are told, contractual documents, and they are to be found on pages 38, 39 and 40 of the bundle before us. The first one is an estimate by the second defendants directed to the insurance company, on which the plaintiff's name appeared as the person to whom reference is made. They assess there an estimate of £108 for labour and other expense for materials and substituted parts. As a result there comes into existence a second document, of the 25th June, where the branch manager of the insurance company writes to the repairers: "We confirm it is in order to proceed with the repairs as per your estimate using the off side rear chassis", and so on; "Please forward your final account to this office on completion, together with a signed satisfaction note". Of course a satisfaction note is a note to be had from the owner of the car to show that he is satisfied with the work.


Now there it is. The argument before us has been that there is a contract thus formed between the insurance company and the repairers to repair the car for the money stated and no other contract at all. It is said that the owner who took the car in did not make any contract: he was merely a bystander and in the hands of the insurance company and that as far as he was concerned he had nothing to say, neither to make nor meddle in the matter.


To take the matter a little further, the garage were in fact very busy. They were also in fact short of staff over the holidays and short of staff anyhow, because skilled labour was scarce in Liverpool at the time. They did not tell the plaintiff, or indeed the assessor of the insurance company, these facts; and in the upshot they took eight weeks to repair the car when in normal times they would have done it in four orfive. The learned judge found that the normal time for doing such a job was at the most five weeks. And so in the action he gave judgment for the plaintiff against the first defendants for a five weeks hire of the substitute car with which admittedly the plaintiff had had to provide himself while his car was under repair. The learned judge said that that was as much as the Corporation was bound to pay because they were not bound to pay anything more than what would have been the hire of the car for a reasonable time. As to the other three weeks during which the plaintiff had had to have the substitute car owing to the non delivery by the second defendants, the learned judge held that the second defendants were liable because they had impliedly contracted with the plaintiff to do the work within a reasonable time and, not having done so, they were in breach of their contract in that respect; and that was the £53 which is in question in this action.


"Oh", say the second defendants, "there was no contract between us and the plaintiff: our only contract was to do the work for the insurance company for a sum of money and to do it as far as they were concerned reasonably well and within a reasonable time; but the plaintiff cannot take advantage of that because he is a stranger to that contract and he has made no contract himself at all".


I must confess that when I first heard that proposition put it seemed to me that in spite of the strenuous advocacy of Mr. Leech it was "all my eye", if I may use a vulgar phrase, and that it would not do at all, and that when a man takes his car into a garage and asks them to repair it, as is done every day, and the garage agrees to do so, there a contract is made to do the repairs with reasonable skill and in a reasonable time. The fact that the insurance company will indemnify the owner is well known in all insurance cases to both parties. The practice has grown up that the insurance company shall agree the sum for which they will stand surety and a contract is very often made by the repairer with the insurance company. Let it be so in this case.


That does not in my view at all rule out the existence of a contract "between the person who owns the car and the repairer. The owner takes the car in to the repairers and he asks them to repair it, at whatever cost the insurance company will be willing to go to, and everybody knows that the insurance company will within that limit pay. Whether there is any obligation on the owner himself to pay if the insurance company does not is another matter, so it seems to me....

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  • Building and Construction Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 Diciembre 2002
    ...There can be acceptance by conduct demonstrating an intention to accept the terms of the offer (see Charnock v Liverpool Corporation[1968] 1 WLR 1498 at 1507). It has also been held in a line of decisions originating with Brogden v Metropolitan Railway Co(1877) 2 App Cas 666, that a contrac......

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