Esso Petroleum v Mardon [1976] QB 801.

DUTY OF CARE – MISREPRESENTATION

Facts

The plaintiff, Mr Mardon, entered into a tenancy agreement with the defendant, Esso Petroleum, in respect of a petrol station owned by the latter. During the course of the negotiation of the agreement, ‘expert’ advisers employed by the defendant had provided an estimate of the sales which the petrol station could expect which was based on inaccurate information and consequently was significantly inflated. The value of the rent on the agreement had been calculated based on this inflated figure. As a result, it was impossible for the plaintiff to operate the petrol station profitably.

Issue

The issues were: firstly, whether the plaintiff could have any action for misrepresentation given that the figure purported to be an ‘estimate’ rather than a statement of fact; secondly, whether the defendant owed any duty of care to the plaintiff so that he could bring his claim in the tort of negligence.

Held

The Court of Appeal held that the contract could not be voided for misrepresentation as the defendants presented the inflated figure as an estimate rather than as a hard fact. On the other hand, as the defendant had taken it upon themselves to employ experts for the purpose of providing an estimate of sales, they owed a duty of care to the plaintiff to ensure that this was done on the basis of accurate information. The plaintiff was therefore able to recover the losses which he had suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligent misstatement.