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Parsons (Livestock) Ltd v Uttley Ingham & Co Ltd [1978] QB 791

Sale of defective hopper for storing pig food; recoverability of losses

Facts

Parsons ordered a bulk storage hopper to store pignuts to feed their top-grade pigs from the defendants. When installing the hopper, the defendants failed to ensure the ventilator was left open which caused the pignuts to go mouldy. The mouldy food caused the outbreak of an infection which killed 254 pigs. Parsons brought a claim for breach of contract.

Issues

Parsons argued the defendants were in breach of their warranty that the hopper was fit for the purpose and, as such, they were liable for the loss of the pigs and for lost profits. The infection which killed the pigs was a direct and natural consequence of the breach of warranty, and it must have been within the contemplation of the parties that the pigs would be injured if their food was not stored safely. The defendants argued they could not have known that mouldy pignuts could cause a deadly infection and, therefore, the damage suffered by Parsons was too remote from the breach. Damages were only recoverable where they could be said to have been in the reasonable contemplation of the parties as foreseeable at the time the contract was formed. The deadly infection could not have been within the parties’ contemplation and, therefore, damages were unrecoverable.

Held

Parsons was successful in their claim. Although the deadly infection could not have reasonably been foreseen at the time the contract was made, it was reasonably foreseeable that the pigs would become ill if their food was inappropriately stored. Where the type of damage is reasonably foreseeable at the time of contract formation, then damages will be recoverable for losses consequent on breach, even if the specific consequence could not have been foreseen.


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