Exhibitor awarded damages for trade show failure

LAW REPORT v 30 August 1995 Dataliner Ltd v Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association; Court of Appeal (Lo rd Justice Hirst, Lord Justice Henry and Lord Justice Swinton Thomas) 27 July 1995

The failure properly to promote a trade show was a breach of contract, entitling an exhibitor at the show to claim as damages the expenditure he had wasted in attending and exhibiting at the show, in reliance upon a reasonable and justified expectation that he would recoup such costs in new sales made there.

The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the defendant, the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association, against the assessment of damages of pounds 24,439.48 plus interest, awarded by Judge Morrell to the plaintiff, Dataliner Ltd, in respect of the defendant's breach of contract in failing properly to promote a trade show at which the plaintiff was an exhibitor.

Peter Susman (Booth & Co, Leeds) for the defendant; Heathern Swindells (Greenwoods, Peterborough) for the plaintiff.

Lord Justice Henry, giving the judgment of the court, said the plaintiffs sold vehicle body-straightening equipment, called "jigs", to vehicle repair businesses, called bodyshops. Between a quarter and a third of their sales came from trade exhibitions or shows. The defendant organised one such show, called "Bodyshop South", held at Wembley Conference Centre from 24 to 26 April 1990. The plaintiff incurred considerable expense in a substantial appearance at that show, but in the event got no new business therefrom. The judge found that the show was a failure, in that insufficient potential customers for vehicle repairing equipment attended, because the defendants failed to promote the show properly and in so failing were in breach of their contract with the plaintiff.

The defendant's appeal was not against the finding of liability for breach of contract, but solely over the quantum of damage. The plaintiff's claim was for wasted expenditure only: it sought to recover what it had spent in participating as an exhibitor at the show, as expenses rendered futile by the defendant's breach of contract. The judge held that where such a contract was discharged by a defendant's breach, a plaintiff might elect to claim either "expectation damages", being the profit he would have earned but for the defendant's breach, or "reliance damages", being the money expended by him in reliance upon the defendant's promise to perform the contract.

A claim for reliance damages would only succeed to the extent that on exploitation, that expenditure would have been recouped: see CCC Films (London) Ltd v Impact Quadrant Films Ltd [1985] 1 QB 16. The plaintiff must establish, on a balance of probabilities, that but for the defendant's breach, he would have recouped his expenditure. Reliance damages might not be used to compensate the plaintiff for having entered into an intrinsically unprofitable contract: see C & P Haulage v Middleton [1983] 1 WLR 1461 at 1467.

The judge was satisfied not only that the plaintiff expected to transact sufficient business as a result of attending and exhibiting at Bodyshop South to recover its expenditure, but also that this expectation was reasonable and justified in the light of the circumstances, including the defendant's assurance that the show was to be adequately advertised and promoted. He concluded: "Where the plaintiff's expectation of profit is well-founded as opposed to aleatory, the court will assume or infer that, but for the defendant's breach, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the plaintiff would have recouped all his expenditure." He found all those criteria satisfied.

The defendant wrongly assumed in argument that, in claiming reliance damages, the plaintiff automatically created a presumption that the contract would have been profitable or shifted the burden of proof on to the defendant to disprove it. But the judge made no presumption that the plaintiff's appearance at the show would have been profitable and required it to prove that. The defendant contended that reli- ance damages were not recoverable unless the contract had been discharged by breach, in that the plaintiff had accepted the defendant's repudiatory breach of contract; yet here the contract was fully performed, if badly. Had the plaintiff wished to recover for wasted expenditure, it should have abandoned the show before it ended.

In their Lordships' judgment there was no authority, and no ground of principal, supporting the defendant's proposition. The suggestion was commercial nonsense. In arriving at the ratio for his judgment, the judge directed himself correctly in law. The appeal must be dismissed.

Paul Magrath, Barrister

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?