Derry v Peek (1889) 14 App Cas 337

Tort law – False representation


In the prospectus released by the defendant company, it was stated that the company was permitted to use trams that were powered by steam, rather than by horses. In reality, the company did not possess such a right as this had to be approved by a Board of Trade. Gaining the approval for such a claim from the Board was considered a formality in such circumstances and the claim was put forward in the prospectus with this information in mind. However, the claim of the company for this right was later refused by the Board. The individuals who had purchased a stake in the business, upon reliance on the statement, brought a claim for deceit against the defendant’s business after it became liquidated.


It is important to note that the law regarding false misrepresentation was still developing and this was an important case in doing so. In this case, the court was required to assess the statement made by the defendant company in its prospectus to see whether the statement was fraudulent or simply incorrect.


The claim of the shareholders was rejected by the House of Lords. The court held that it was not proven by the shareholders that the director of the company was dishonest in his belief. The court defined fraudulent misrepresentation as a statement known to be false or a statement made recklessly or carelessly as to the truth of the statement. On this basis, the plaintiff could not claim against the defendant company for deceit.