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Alderslade v Hendon Laundry Ltd [1945] 1 KB 189

Negligence and clarity in the wording of exclusion clauses

Facts

The claimant sent certain items to the defendant’s laundry so that they may be washed. Of those, ten large handkerchiefs were lost. The claimant started an action against the defendant for damages for those lost items. The defendant argued that there was a relevant exclusion clause in the contract between the claimant and the defendant, which stipulated that ‘The maximum amount allowed for lost or damaged articles is twenty times the charge made for laundering.’ The claimant had claimed for £5 which was the cost of the lost items, however, twenty times the cost of laundering amounted to 11s 5d, which is considerably less (this being approximately a tenth of the full £5 demanded). Notably, the exclusion clause did not expressly exclude responsibility for negligence.

Issues

The issue was whether the exclusion clause could apply to cases of negligence if these were not specifically mentioned in the clause.

Held

It was held that the clause did cover damage resulting from negligence, since the only way in which the defendant could be liable under this contract is through some form of negligence. Negligence must clearly have been in the contemplation of the parties when this was being drafted.

“… The only way in which the defendants could be made liable for the loss of articles awaiting their turn to be washed would, I think, quite clearly be if it could be shown that they had been guilty of negligence in performing their duty of care of the goods.” (Lord Greene MR)


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