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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'