The impact of Lord Bridges decision in the case of George Mitchell v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd.

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Week 7 Discussion


We start this discussion by outlining the facts in the case of George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd. Finney Lock (defendant) provided cabbage seed to a farmer, George Mitchell (plaintiff) for circa. £200. The plaintiff had planted the seeds which subsequently did not grow as expected. The crop that did develop was not fit for human consumption, and therefore the whole crop was ploughed in by the Plaintiff.  George Mitchell subsequently brought a claim against Finney Lock for damages of circa. £60,000 for a breach of contract.

Within that contract was an exemption clause that stated that in the event of seeds supplied proving defective, the defendant would (at their discretion) replace the defective seeds. The issue brought before the court was:

(1) whether the contractual exemption clause applied to the breach; and if so

(2)  was it considered 'fair and reasonable' under s.55 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and s.2(2) of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA) for the defendant to rely on it in this case.

Initially the case was heard in the High Court who ruled against Finney Lock Seeds finding that the seeds (as described) could not be considered seeds on the basis they did not work and therefore the exclusion clause being relied upon had no contractual effect. This led to an appeal in the Court of Appeal and finally a case being presented to the House of Lords. It is from here we consider the case law speech of Lord Bridge and its importance in the development of UK contract law.

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Lord Bridge's leading judgment - House of Lords1983

Through his speech,(para. 15) Lord Bridge discussed his view of the legitimacy of what can be regarded as "fair and reasonable". He raises the question as to whether courts have the ability to consistently interpret cases using modern statutory provisions.  The common law issue had previously been dismissed by the trial judge and therefore Lord Bridge considered the issue in a statutory sense - this is an important development in the cases chronology.

In relation to s.55 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979, Lord Bridge determined that 'the contract terms were ...

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