Lambert v Lewis Case Summary

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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Lambert v Lewis [1982] AC 225

Limitation of implied indemnity clause in sale of product not fit for purpose

Facts

A farm trailer careered into the road and struck the plaintiffs’ car. The defendants were the farmer, his employee and the retailer and manufacturer concerned with the sale and supply of a faulty towing hitch. In the plaintiffs’ action for negligence, the farmer also brought proceedings against the retailer of the towing hitch under the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the retailers brought an action against the manufacturers.

Issue

At first instance, the farmer and manufacturer were found liable in negligence. The retailer was found to have supplied a coupling (a necessary component for the towing hitch) which was not fit for purpose. However, the farmer’s negligence super-imposed that of the retailer and so the farmer’s claim against the retailer was dismissed. Accordingly, the action by the retailer against the manufacturer was also dismissed. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the farmer as against the retailer.

Held

On further appeal by the retailer, the House of Lords held that an implied warranty in the sale of the towing hitch required that it should allow for safe use of a trailer on a public highway. This implied warranty applied for a reasonable time after delivery of the goods. However, once it became apparent that the locking mechanism of the towing hitch was broken there was no longer any implied warranty. In relation to the accident, the retailer was only liable to indemnify the farmer if the retailer had expressly contracted on the basis that the farmer need not take the very precaution for which he had been liable. In the circumstances, therefore, the farmer’s claim against the retailer failed.

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