United Dominions Trust Ltd v Western

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date24 October 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] EWCA Civ J1024-3
Date24 October 1975
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)

[1975] EWCA Civ J1024-3

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

The Court of Appeal


(Civil Division)

(From: His Honour Judge Duveen - Slough County Court)


Lord Justice Megaw

Lord Justice Scarman and

Lord Justice Bridge

United Dominions Trust Limited
- and -
Eric Reginald Western
- and -
B.S. Romanay (trading as Romanay Car Sales)
Third Party

Mr. DAVID EADY (instructed by Messrs, Bobbins, Olivey & Lake, Agents for Messrs. Harris & Cartwright, Slough, Berks.) appeared on behalf of the Appellant (Defendant)

Mr. DAVID MORTON JACK (instructed by Mr. M. J. Sechiari) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Plaintiff).

The Third Party did not appear and was not represented.


This is an appeal from the judgment of Judge Duveen in the Slough County Court, delivered on 3rd January, 1975. The judgment was given in an action between United Dominions Trust Limited as plaintiffs and Mr. Eric Reginald Western as defendant. In the proceedings Mr. Western had brought in a third party, Mr. B. S. Romanay, trading as Romanay Car sales.


The action arose in this way. In September, 1972, the defendant, Mr. Western, was minded to purchase a secondhand ear, a Ford Corsair, which he had seen on display in the premises of Romanay Car Sales. As a result of discussions between the defendant and Mr. Romanay, the third party, agreement was reached for the defendant to buy the car from the third party. The price which was agreed was £550. Mr. Romanay in the course of the discussions had asked for a deposit of £80. When the defendant indicated that he could not provide so much, Mr. Romanay asked for £60. The defendant went away and came back and said that the moat he could raise by way of deposit was £34; and Mr. Romanay agreed that he would accept that figure as deposit. The defendant had indicated that he would like to have a hire-purchase agreement. The defendant understood that Mr. Romanay was in a position, subject to checking with a finance company, to arrange for a hire-purchase agreement. Mr. Western, the defendant came back in due course with £34 in cash, and he handed that sum over as being the deposit. He then came back again accompanied by a Mr. Edwards, and signed in blank a form which has figured substantially in these proceedings. That form was in fact a standard form of the plaintiffs, the finance company, United Dominions Trust Ltd., applicable, not to a hire-purchase agreement for a vehicle, but to a loan agreement, the loan agreement being for the provision of money by way of loan for the purposes of the purchase of a car. The business of the transaction was that thedealer would get from the finance company the amount of the purchase price leas the amount of the deposit received by the dealer; and the purchaser of the oar (who was the defendant in this case) would enter into an agreement with the plaintiffs, the finance company, under which the defendant would agree to pay an initial sum of £2 acceptance fee and thereafter monthly instalments, calculated by reference to the amount of the loan, being the proposed cost of the car less the deposit, plus interest thereon.


The defendant signed a form of agreement. But, according to his evidence (which was accepted by the learned judge and is not challenged in this Court), when he signed that form it was for all practical purposes a form in blank, other than for the print upon it. The defendant intended, and thought, that the third party would fill in that form with the figures which had been agreed, namely, the purchase price of £550, and showing the deposit of £34, and, no doubt, making the consequential calculations upon that as to the appropriate monthly payments. The defendant still thought, he says, and the judge accepted, that it was a hire-purchase agreement and not a loan agreement. Nothing in the end, I think, turns on that. The judge accepted that the defendant believed that. On the basis of what the third party said, he signed the form, then in blank.


Unfortunately, when that form was submitted by the third party to the plaintiffs, figures had been filled in which were not the figures that had been agreed between the defendant and the third party. Thus, the price of the car was put, not at £50, but £730; and the cash deposit was put in, not as £34, but as £185. In fact, whatever the motive may have been for the third party filling in as the deposit received by him a much larger sum than he had in fact received, the upshot was that what the defendant would be obliged to pay would not be substantially different from that which he had contemplated on the figures that he had - according to his evidence,acccpted by the judge agreed with the third party.


That form went forward to the plaintiffs, the finance company, and, they having accepted the transaction, the contract, or the purported contract, was made between them and the defendant. The issue before the learned judge was, and the issue in this Court is, whether in law there was a contract between the plaintiffs and the defendant at all as a result of this transaction.


The subsequent events were indeed somewhat curious. The defendant in his evidence said, or accepted, that, not having received, as he expected, a copy of the agreement and payment bock in respect of what he thought was a Hire-purchase agreement, he telephoned the plaintiffs' office. As a result of that telephone conversation he received a copy of the form of agreement and he received the payment book. Those documents showed quite clearly, and the defendant did not seek to say that he did not then realise it, that it was not a hire-purchase agreement but a loan agreement; and it would have been apparent to him, had he chosen to check it, that the figures included in the agreement were not the figures Which he had agreed with the third party. However, he took no steps whatever to complain about that to the plaintiffs, who thought that they had made a contract with him on the terms of that document which had been submitted to them over his signature. He allowed the matter to go on. He had difficulties about the car. According to his evidence, the car was defective in various ways, including the tyres being bad, and he used the car practically not at all. I think he got a set of remoulded tyres which were out after a week; and thereafter, according to him, the car remained in the defendant's employers' premises for some months, when it was stolen by some acquaintance of the defendant who while driving it had an accident with it, with the result that the car was a write-off. Thereupon the acquaintance who had thus taken the car and smashed it up apparently compensated the defendant by handing over his own car to the defends Thatcar also, we were told, became a write-off; but that I think is irrelevant.


The defendant paid nothing whatever by way of the instalments which, if there was a contract, he was due to pay to the plaintiff company; and in course of time they took proceedings against him to recover the amounts which they said were due under this agreement, which they regarded as being a binding and valid agreement.


The matter came before the County Court. In the first instance the defendant apparently not I think having consulted solicitors or being represented at that stage, put in a defence admitting liability; and judgment was given against him. Thereafter, however having taken legal advice he asked that there should be a fresh trial, under the prevision of the County Court Rules. That was granted; the fresh trial took place; and it is from the judgment given in that fresh trial that this appeal arises.


The judge in those proceedings heard the evidence at some length and came to the conclusion that, as between the defendant and the third party, the defendant's evidence was to be accepted and the third party's evidence was not to be accepted. Thus, he reached the conclusion, which I have reflected, I hope, fairly in my outline of the facts, that, though the defendant had signed this form in blank, various things that were filled in it were filled in falsely, and, it would seem, fraudulently, by the third party without the knowledge or consent of the defendant. There is no reason to suppose that the plaintiffs were aware, or that anything existed which might reasonably have brought to their notice, that this document, apparently signed by the defendant, was anything other than what It purported to be; namely, something which was put forward by the defendant as being what he was asking in the way of a contract with the plaintiffs. So that I may get this out of the way at this stage, there is no question of any allegation by either party that the dealer, the third party Mr. Romanay, was the agenteither of the plaintiffs, the finance company, or of the defendant, the purchaser of the car that is to say, agent by way of any general principle of agency or by reference to any particular matters appearing in the evidence here. When I say that, however, it mast be...

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    ...the decision of the House of Lords in Gallie v Lee [1971] AC 1004 and the Court of Appeal in England in United Dominion Trust v Western [1976] 1 QB 513. As Lord Wilberforce said in Gallie v Lee at page 1027: “In my opinion, the correct rule, and that which in fact prevailed until Bragg’s ca......
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2 books & journal articles
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    • Canada
    • Irwin Books The Law of Contracts. Third Edition Vitiating Factors
    • 4 August 2020
    ...97 Above note 77 at 1016. Executing a document in blank is likely to be considered careless. See United Dominions Trust Ltd v Western , [1976] QB 513 (CA). 98 See, for example, Farrell Estates Ltd v Win-Up Restaurant Ltd , 2010 BCSC 1752 (very limited English language skills — doctrine appl......
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    ...Gallie v. Lee was followed in 1975 in the Court of Appeal in England in the case of United Dominion Trust Ltd. v. Western B.S. Romanay (1976) 2 W.L.R. 64, where it was held that, in considering a plea of nonest factum, there is no distinction between carelessly signing a completed document ......

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