Hollier v Rambler Motors (AMC) Ltd [1971]

Hollier v Rambler Motors (AMC) Ltd [1971] EWCA Civ 12 addressed the issue of incorporating terms into a contract and the interpretation of exclusion clauses, displaying a notably cautious stance towards such clauses.

Walter Hollier had engaged the services of Rambler Motors, an automobile repair shop, on multiple occasions over five years. Typically, he signed an invoice containing an exclusion clause exempting the company from responsibility for fire damage to customers' cars on the premises. However, on this specific occasion, Hollier did not sign the form. Unfortunately, a fire ensued due to faulty wiring in the garage, leading to the destruction of Hollier's car. As a result, Hollier filed a lawsuit against Rambler Motors seeking reimbursement for the car's cost.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the prior course of dealing did not incorporate the exclusion clause into the contract due to the lack of a consistent pattern in their interactions. Even if the clause were incorporated, the court held it would not effectively absolve Rambler Motors from liability since it extended beyond negligence. Applying the contra proferentum rule, the court interpreted the clause against the party relying on it. Contra proferentum dictates that, in cases of ambiguity or uncertainty in contractual terms, interpretation should favour the party that did not draft the terms. The court stressed that exclusion clauses should employ clear and plain language, particularly when aiming to exclude liability for negligence. The language should unambiguously convey its intended meaning to an average person. The court expressed reluctance to permit parties to shield themselves behind ambiguous language that might mislead customers.

The case underscores the court's wariness regarding the exclusion of liability for negligence, emphasising the necessity for clarity in contractual terms. It establishes that customers could reasonably interpret an exclusion clause to mean that the defendants were not liable for a fire caused without their negligence. Additionally, the court determined that three or four transactions over a five-year period were insufficient to incorporate an exemption clause into the consumer contract.

This case illustrates the court's careful scrutiny of exclusion clauses and its commitment to safeguarding consumers from potentially misleading or ambiguous terms.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.