Pigott v Thompson (1802) 3 Bos & Pul 98

Contract law – Privity of contract


The plaintiff was a treasurer to the commissioners of the tolls and as such, earned an annual salary and was employed by way of an act of Parliament. The defendant agreed to pay rent on tolls which he had hired from the commissioners and for three years, the defendant paid the rent that was owed for this to the plaintiff, as had been agreed. However, the defendant fell into arrears and the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant for the outstanding balance. The court in the initial trial found that the plaintiff could bring an action and claim for the money owed. The defendant appealed this decision.


The court was required to establish whether the plaintiff could claim for the payment that was outstanding for the rental of the tolls on the basis that they were an employee of the commissioner and therefore may not have been a specific party to the contract. If the plaintiff could not be seen as a party to the contract, the claim would be dismissed.


The court found in favour of the defendant and dismissed the claim brought by the plaintiff for the money that is outstanding. It did so on the basis that the intention of the agreement between the commissioner and defendant was that in consideration for renting the land, the defendant would pay money to any person who had been assigned by the commissioner. However, the court found that a debt was not assignable and that the original contract did not include the plaintiff treasurer. On this basis, the plaintiff could not claim for the sum of money that was owed.