In J & B Hopkins Ltd v A & V Building Solution Ltd a claim was made for mental suffering, distress, physical inconvenience and discomfort caused by breach of contract. But can damages be awarded for any of those conditions?
The court set out the relevant law, including these principles:
- It is clearly established as a general rule that, where there has been a breach of contract, damages cannot be awarded for the vexation or anxiety or aggravation or similar states of mind resulting from the breach;
- there is, however, an exceptional category of cases. Where the object of a contract is to provide pleasure, relaxation, peace of mind or freedom from molestation, damages will be awarded if the fruit of the contract is not provided or if the contrary result is procured instead. If the law did not cater for this excep- tional category of case it would be defective. A contract to survey the condition of a house for a prospective purchaser does not, however, fall within this exceptional category.
- In cases not in this exceptional category, dam- ages are recoverable for physical inconvenience and discomfort caused by the breach and mental suffering directly related to that inconve- nience and discomfort.
- In addition, in Ruxley v Forsyth, speeches in the House of Lords established that, in some cases, the plaintiff, notwithstanding that they suffer no financial loss, should be compensated where the defendant is in breach of a contractual obligation;
- and in Farley v Skinner the House of Lords emphasised that damages for non-pecuniary damage can only be awarded where the damage alleged is within the contemplation of the contracting parties as potentially flowing from a contractual obligation, the achievement of which was at the heart (the very object) of the contract.