B & S Contracts & Design Ltd v Victor Green Publications Ltd [1984] ICR 419

Contract - Exceptions clause - Strike - Threats - Payment under threat

Facts:

The plaintiffs were contracted to erect stands in a stadium. The contract specified that the Plaintiffs would make every effort to complete the works, but it was subject to a force majeure clause. The Plaintiffs brought over workers from a company of theirs that was going insolvent and was making the workers redundant. When the workers arrived, they threatened to strike unless they were paid a lump sum redundancy payment, which they were not actually entitled to. The Plaintiffs told the defendants to pay half so that the work could continue. The Defendants paid it and on the completion of the works, they deducted the funds from the Plaintiff’s invoice. The Plaintiffs brought an action. The defendants claimed duress.

Issues:

Whether the Plaintiff was entitled to payment of the deducted amount under the force majeure clause, or whether the payment was made under duress.

Held:

The appeal by the plaintiff was dismissed. It was held that the payment was made by the defendant when they were under duress as their financial situation was such that if they did not pay it, the non-completion of the works would leave them financially destitute. As such, in the circumstances they had no choice but to pay it. The Plaintiffs were unable to rely on the force majeure clause because the works had been carried out and they had received payment. Therefore, they were liable for the payment demanded by the workers.