Robinson v Harman [1848]

Robinson v Harman [1848]

Robinson v Harman [1848] 1 Ex 850 is an English contract law that dealt with the issue of damages for breach of contract. The court emphasised that such damages aim to compensate for expectation loss.

Harman (the defendant) agreed in writing to grant a 21-year lease to Robinson for £110 per year. It later transpired that Harman had no right to grant the lease, as the right was reserved to the trustees of the land. Robinson sued Harman for breach of contract, seeking damages. The trial judge awarded Robinson £200, representing the loss of benefit the lease would have conferred on him, commonly known as expectation loss.

Harman argued that Robinson could only recover his expenses, but the Court of Exchequer dismissed the appeal, affirming Robinson's entitlement to the £200 award. Parke B, delivering the judgment, emphasised the principle that when a party sustains a loss due to a breach of contract, they should be placed in the same situation, with respect to damages, as if the contract had been performed. This aligns with the idea that damages for breach of contract are intended to compensate for the loss of the expected benefit or value that the party would have gained if the contract had been fulfilled.

It is worth noting that damages for breach of contract can be distinguished from damages in tort. In the context of a breach of contract, damages are geared towards compensating for expectation loss, aiming to put the claimant in the position they would have been in if the contract had been properly performed. In contrast, damages in tort often compensate for 'reliance loss,' intending to restore the claimant, as much as possible, to the position they were in before the tort occurred.
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