Shogun Finance Ltd v Hudson [2003]

Shogun Finance Ltd v Hudson [2003] UKHL 62 is an English contract law concerning mistaken identity and its implications for the rescission of a contract. The case centred around a rogue individual who, using false information, purchased a Mitsubishi Shogun on hire purchase from a dealer, misrepresenting himself as Mr Patel and presenting Mr Patel's driving licence. Shogun Finance, upon communication with the dealer, conducted a credit check on Mr Patel and authorised the hire purchase agreement, unaware of the rogue's deception.

The rogue subsequently sold the car to Mr Norman Hudson, who had no knowledge of the vehicle's status as subject to a hire purchase agreement with Shogun Finance. When Shogun Finance sought the return of its vehicle, Mr Hudson relied on Section 27 of the Hire Purchase Act 1964, arguing that as a non-trade buyer who purchased the car in good faith from a hirer under a hire purchase agreement, he became the owner.

In a 3-2 decision, the majority of the House of Lords held that there was no valid contract of hire purchase between Shogun Finance and the rogue. As a result, Section 27 of the Hire Purchase Act did not apply, and the car did not legally belong to Mr Hudson. The majority followed the precedent set in Cundy v Lindsay [1878], emphasising that a contract where identity is crucial becomes void if the purchaser lies about their identity. The face-to-face exemption established in Phillips v Brooks Ltd [1919] was deemed inapplicable, as the seller in this case was the finance company, not the dealer.

Lord Nicholls and Lord Millett dissented, advocating for a policy that would protect the good-faith purchaser in all cases, regardless of the face-to-face distinction. They argued that contracts involving mistaken identity should be voidable rather than immediately void, allowing for protection of third parties if the original seller did not repudiate the contract before the goods were sold on.

The decision in Shogun Finance Ltd v Hudson maintained the face-to-face distinction in cases of mistaken identity, which has been criticised as artificial and unfair to third parties. Critics argue that this distinction places an undue burden on innocent third parties, who bear the entire loss in situations where the original seller could have taken better measures to uncover fraud. The case underscores the ongoing debate about the appropriate legal treatment of contracts involving mistaken identity and its impact on innocent third parties.
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