Oscar Chess v Williams [1957] 1 WLR 370

The steps to be taken in identifying a warranty

Facts

The defendants sold a Morris car to the claimants, who were motor traders, for £290. The defendants provided a copy of the vehicles first registration indicating that the car was first registered in 1948. Some eight months later the claimants became aware that the car had actually been registered in 1939 and was therefore only worth £175. The defendant honestly believed that the car was a 1948 model. The claimants claimed damages for breach of contract.

Issue

The issue in this context was whether the statements given by the defendants constituted a warranty as to the age of the car.

Held

The Court of Appeal found that the defendants’ comments did not constitute a warranty. More importantly, the court set out a number of considerations that should be made when assessing whether a statement is a warranty. (1) Where an assumption is fundamental to a contract, it does not mean that it is a term of the contract. (2) The term warranty means a binding promise as well as a subsidiary, non-essential, term of a contract. (3) A warranty must be distinguished from an innocent misrepresentation. (4) Whether a warranty is intended must, judged objectively, be based on the parties’ words and behaviour. (5) Where one party makes a statement, which should be within his own knowledge, but not the knowledge of the other, it is easy to infer a warranty. If the party states that it is not within his knowledge and is information passed from another, a warranty is less easily inferred. (6) An oral representation repeated in writing suggests a warranty, but the issue is not conclusive. Neither is the fact that it is not stated in writing.