Hummingbird Motors Ltd v Hobbs [1986] RTR 276

Whether a negligent statement made in good faith constitutes a misrepresentation

Facts

The defendant bought a car which appeared to be in excellent condition. The odometer reading on the car displayed a mileage of 34,900 miles, although the car had in fact actually travelled 80,000 miles in total. The seller of the car did not tell the defendant that the odometer reading was actually incorrect, but simply stated to the defendant that there was no warranty as to the mileage of the car. The defendant sold the car to the claimant shortly afterwards, and stated that the mileage was correct to the best of his knowledge and belief. When the claimant discovered that the mileage was in fact inaccurate, it commenced an action for breach of warranty and misrepresentation. The judge at first instance found in favour of the claimant. The defendant appealed.

Issue

The issue in this context was whether statements made, where the maker genuinely believes them to be true, can constitute a misrepresentation when the maker’s belief is negligently held.

Held

The Court of Appeal reversed the decision at first instance. The defendant was not aware that the odometer reading was in fact incorrect, and had acted in good faith during the transaction. This meant that the defendant’s statement in terms of stating that the mileage was correct to the best of his knowledge and belief was correct and was as a result therefore, not a misrepresentation. The fact that the belief was negligently held was irrelevant.