South Australian Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd ; United Bank of Kuwait Plc v Prudential Property Services Ltd ; Nykredit Mortgage Bank Plc v Edward Erdman Group Ltd (Formerly Edward Erdman an Unlimited Company)

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Goff of Chieveley,Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle,Lord Slynn of Hadley,Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead,Lord Hoffmann
Judgment Date20 June 1996
Judgment citation (vLex)[1996] UKHL J0620-4
Date20 June 1996
CourtHouse of Lords
South Australia Asset Management Corporation
(Respondents)
and
York Montague Limited
(Appellants)
United Bank of Kuwait Plc
(Respondents)
and
Prudential Property Services Limited
(Appellants)
Nykredit Mortgage Bank Plc
(Respondents)
and
Edward Erdman Group Limited (Formerly Edward Erdman an Unlimited Company)
(Appellants)

[1996] UKHL J0620-4

Lord Goff of Chieveley

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle

Lord Slynn of Hadley

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead

Lord Hoffmann

House of Lords

1

OPINIONS OF THE LORDS OF APPEAL FOR JUDGMENT IN THE CAUSE

Lord Goff of Chieveley

My Lords,

2

I have had the advantage of reading a draft of the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Hoffmann. For the reasons he gives, and with which I agree, I would make orders in the terms proposed by him.

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle

My Lords,

3

I have had the advantage of reading a draft of the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Hoffmann. For the reasons he gives, and with which I agree, I would make orders in the terms proposed by him.

Lord Slynn of Hadley

My Lords,

4

I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech prepared by my noble and learned friend Lord Hoffmann. For the reasons he gives I too would make the order in each appeal as proposed by him.

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead

My Lords,

5

I have had the advantage of reading a draft of the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Hoffmann. For the reasons he gives, and with which I agree, I would make orders in the terms proposed by him.

Lord Hoffmann

My Lords,

6

The three appeals before the House raise a common question of principle. What is the extent of the liability of a valuer who has provided a lender with a negligent overvaluation of the property offered as security for the loan? The facts have two common features. The first is that if the lender had known the true value of the property, he would not have lent. The second is that a fall in the property market after the date of the valuation greatly increased the loss which the lender eventually suffered.

7

The Court of Appeal decided that in a case in which the lender would not otherwise have lent (which they called a "no-transaction" case), he is entitled to recover the difference between the sum which he lent, together with a reasonable rate of interest, and the net sum which he actually got back. The valuer bears the whole risk of a transaction which, but for his negligence, would not have happened. He is therefore liable for all the loss attributable to a fall in the market. They distinguished what they called a "successful transaction" case, in which the evidence shows that if the lender had been correctly advised, he would still have lent a lesser sum on the same security. In such a case, the lender can recover only the difference between what he has actually lost and what he would have lost if he had lent the lesser amount. Since the fall in the property market is a common element in both the actual and the hypothetical calculations, it does not increase the valuer's liability.

8

The valuers appeal. They say that a valuer provides an estimate of the value of the property at the date of the valuation. He does not undertake the role of a prophet. It is unfair that merely because for one reason or other the lender would not otherwise have lent, the valuer should be saddled with the whole risk of the transaction, including a subsequent fall in the value of the property.

9

Much of the discussion, both in the judgment of the Court of Appeal and in argument at the Bar, has assumed that the case is about the correct measure of damages for the loss which the lender has suffered. The Court of Appeal began its judgment with the citation of three well-known cases stating the principle that where an injury is to be compensated by damages, the damages should be as nearly as possible the sum which would put the plaintiff in the position in which he would have been if he had not been injured. It described this principle as "the necessary point of departure."

10

I think that this was the wrong place to begin. Before one can consider the principle on which one should calculate the damages to which a plaintiff is entitled as compensation for loss, it is necessary to decide for what kind of loss he is entitled to compensation. A correct description of the loss for which the valuer is liable must precede any consideration of the measure of damages. For this purpose it is better to begin at the beginning and consider the lender's cause of action.

11

The lender sues on a contract under which the valuer, in return for a fee, undertakes to provide him with certain information. Precisely what information he has to provide depends of course upon the terms of the individual contract. There is some dispute on this point in respect of two of the appeals, to which I shall have to return. But there is one common element which everyone accepts. In each case the valuer was required to provide an estimate of the price which the property might reasonably be expected to fetch if sold in the open market at the date of the valuation.

12

There is again agreement on the purpose for which the information was provided. It was to form part of the material on which the lender was to decide whether, and if so how much, he would lend. The valuation tells the lender how much, at current values, he is likely to recover if he has to resort to his security. This enables him to decide what margin, if any, an advance of a given amount will allow for a fall in the market, reasonably foreseeable variance from the figure put forward by the valuer (a valuation is an estimate of the most probable figure which the property will fetch, not a prediction that it will fetch precisely that figure), accidental damage to the property and any other of the contingencies which may happen. The valuer will know that if he overestimates the value of the property, the lender's margin for all these purposes will be correspondingly less.

13

On the other hand, the valuer will not ordinarily be privy to the other considerations which the lender may take into account, such as how much money he has available, how much the borrower needs to borrow, the strength of his covenant, the attraction of the rate of interest or the other personal or commercial considerations which may induce the lender to lend.

14

Because the valuer will appreciate that his valuation, though not the only consideration which would influence the lender, is likely to be a very important one, the law implies into the contract a term that the valuer will exercise reasonable care and skill. The relationship between the parties also gives rise to a concurrent duty in tort: see Henderson v. Merrett Syndicates Ltd. [1995] 2 A.C. 145. But the scope of the duty in tort is the same as in contract.

15

A duty of care such as the valuer owes does not however exist in the abstract. A plaintiff who sues for breach of a duty imposed by the law (whether in contract or tort or under statute) must do more than prove that the defendant has failed to comply. He must show that the duty was owed to him and that it was a duty in respect of the kind of loss which he has suffered. Both of these requirements are illustrated by Caparo Industries Plc. v. Dickman [1990] 2 A.C. 605. The auditors' failure to use reasonable care in auditing the company's statutory accounts was a breach of their duty of care. But they were not liable to an outside take-over bidder because the duty was not owed to him. Nor were they liable to shareholders who had bought more shares in reliance on the accounts because, although they were owed a duty of care, it was in their capacity as members of the company and not in the capacity (which they shared with everyone else) of potential buyers of its shares. Accordingly, the duty which they were owed was not in respect of loss which they might suffer by buying its shares. As Lord Bridge of Harwich said, at p. 627:

"It is never sufficient to ask simply whether A owes B a duty of care. It is always necessary to determine the scope of the duty by reference to the kind of damage from which A must take care to save B harmless."

16

In the present case, there is no dispute that the duty was owed to the lenders. The real question in this case is the kind of loss in respect of which the duty was owed.

17

How is the scope of the duty determined? In the case of a statutory duty, the question is answered by deducing the purpose of the duty from the language and context of the statute: Gorris v. Scott (1874) L.R. 9 Ex. 125. In the case of tort, it will similarly depend upon the purpose of the rule imposing the duty. Most of the judgments in Caparo are occupied in examining the Companies Act 1985 to ascertain the purpose of the auditor's duty to take care that the statutory accounts comply with the Act. In the case of an implied contractual duty, the nature and extent of the liability is defined by the term which the law implies. As in the case of any implied term, the process is one of construction of the agreement as a whole in its commercial setting. The contractual duty to provide a valuation and the known purpose of that valuation compel the conclusion that the contract includes a duty of care. The scope of the duty, in the sense of the consequences for which the valuer is responsible, is that which the law regards as best giving effect to the express obligations assumed by the valuer: neither cutting them down so that the lender obtains less than he was reasonably entitled to expect, nor extending them so as to impose on the valuer a liability greater than he could reasonably have thought he was undertaking.

18

What therefore should be the extent of the valuer's liability? The Court of Appeal said that he should be liable for the loss which would not have occurred if he had given the correct advice. The lender...

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