Breaking News

Top Contract Law Cases of 2021 for Scots lawyers | Dentons

Welcome to our annual summary of 2021’s major contract law situations from north and south of the border for Scots attorneys.

Liquidated damages

Triple Level Technological innovation Inc. v. PTT Community Co Constrained (Supreme Court docket)

The Supreme Court docket confirms that liquidated damages accrue in situations in which operate is hardly ever done by a contractor

In Triple Issue v. PTT, the Supreme Court docket fixed uncertainty around regardless of whether liquidated damages for delay had been payable in respect of performs which a supplier had not done at the level of termination.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court docket of Appeal’s determination, holding that “it is ordinarily to be predicted that, unless of course the clause obviously delivers normally, a liquidated damages clause will use to any time period of delay in finishing the operate up to, but not further than, the day of termination of the contract”.

The relevant clause delivered that liquidated damages were payable “from the thanks date for delivery up to the date PTT accepts these kinds of function …”. The Supreme Court docket found that the phrases “up to the day PTT accepts this sort of get the job done” were not a issue for the award of liquidated damages, fairly they basically specified the day on which liquidated damages would prevent accruing.  

Entitlement to liquidated damages is for that reason not conditional on the contractor finally finishing the work, in the absence of these kinds of drafting.

The lesson for contract drafters is to keep away from any ambiguity by spelling out that liquidated damages accrue until the day of termination even if completion/acceptance does not come about.  

Onerous and unusual agreement conditions

Blu-Sky Alternatives Restricted v. Be Caring Confined (High Court) 

Environmentally friendly v. Petfre (Gibraltar) Confined t/a Betfred (Substantial Courtroom)

Phoenix Interior Design Minimal v. Henley Residences Plc (Superior Court)

A warning to carefully consider how unusual and onerous clauses in standard conditions are offered and signposted

In 2021, the courts repeatedly stressed that the a lot more onerous or abnormal a clause incorporated in standard conditions is, the much more that desires to be finished to convey the clause to the other party’s awareness in get for it to be integrated into a agreement. 

In Blu-Sky v. Be Caring, an onerous cancellation demand in a agreement for the offer of a cellular community assistance was not validly included. The cancellation terms had been situated, not in the deal which had been signed, but in a set of phrases and circumstances referred to in the document signed. The choose held that the reference in the signed doc was ample to integrate the terms in basic, but not the onerous cancellation clause which was “cunningly hid in the center of a dense thicket which none but the most focused could have been anticipated to find and extricate”.

In Environmentally friendly v. Betfred, the courtroom concluded that a clause in the conventional conditions applicable to an on the web betting game excluding liability in the celebration of a defect or malfunction did not type section of the deal. End users ended up needed to acknowledge their acceptance of the terms and conditions by clicking a button on signing up for an account with Betfred. The judge regarded as the presentation and signposting of clauses within just Betfred’s conditions and ailments, discovering that: “The unhelpful, frequently iterative presentation in closely typed lower-situation or quite a few paragraphs of cash letters intended that the pertinent clauses had been buried in other elements.” It was hence unreasonable to have anticipated Mr Environmentally friendly to uncover and be aware the importance of the exclusion clause.

The presentation of strange or onerous exclusion clauses also sorts portion of the “reasonableness take a look at” in The Unfair Agreement Terms Act 1977. In Phoenix v. Henley Homes, the court docket considered an exclusion clause in a deal for interior design products and services offering that the vendor was beneath no liability beneath its guarantee if the overall price tag of the merchandise had not been compensated by the because of date for payment. The courtroom concluded that this clause did not meet up with the UCTA reasonableness exam. In contemplating irrespective of whether the purchaser knew or should fairly to have acknowledged of the existence and extent of the exclusion clause, the decide observed that: “This evidently unconventional clause is tucked away in the undergrowth of the Regular Terms and Problems without any particular highlighting of the penalties of even the slightest delay in payment.” 

The message is distinct – if abnormal or onerous clauses are to be relied on, they will have to be brought to the other contracting party’s interest by means of correct methods this kind of as obvious signposting and/or visually highlighting the related conditions.

Very good faith

Dwyer (British isles Franchising) Ltd v. Fredbar Ltd (Substantial Courtroom)

Van Oord United kingdom Ltd v. Dragados Uk Ltd (Internal Dwelling, Courtroom of Session)

Scots legislation gradually embraces fantastic faith in commercial contracts

Good faith in business contracts has been a hot subject matter in the English courts in modern many years. Duties to act in good religion have been implied into selected agreements necessitating a significant degree of cooperation, rely on and loyalty, typically termed “relational contracts”.  

Parties doing exercises a contractual discretion have also been observed to be issue to a responsibility not to act in a way that is arbitrary, capricious or irrational (normally referred to as “the Braganza obligation”, possessing been proven by the Supreme Court docket in the scenario of Braganza v. BP Transport Minimal in 2015). For instance, in Dwyer v. Fredbar, the court held that a contractual correct to declare a pressure majeure celebration in reaction to COVID-19 disruption will have to not be exercised arbitrarily, capriciously or irrationally. 

There has been minimal thing to consider of the part of excellent faith in Scots law in the latest several years which helps make the Internal House’s reviews in Van Oord United kingdom Ltd v. Dragados British isles Ltd specifically appealing. This circumstance anxious the right interpretation of an NEC3 contract for the dredging of Nigg Bay, portion of the Aberdeen Harbour growth project. The court docket deemed clause 10.1 of the NEC3 regular kind, which contained a necessity to act “in a spirit of mutual have faith in and co-procedure”. In supplying the view of the court docket, Lord Woolman commented that this clause “reflects and reinforces the general theory of very good faith in contracts”.

The recognition of a normal basic principle of good faith in contracts by our appeal court docket is a notable development. It is possible to be explored and tested in coming a long time by litigating get-togethers who have experienced decline as a final result of what may be regarded as commercially unacceptable carry out by one more contracting bash. 

The other lesson from Van Oord is that the courts will give teeth to specific deal terms that contains fantastic faith needs this sort of as a duty to act in a spirit of mutual have faith in and co-procedure. In Lord Woolman’s terms, such terms are “not just an avowal of aspiration”.  


Wilmington Have confidence in SP Services (Dublin) Ltd v. Spicejet Ltd (Significant Courtroom) 

Salam Air SAOC v. Latam Airways Groups SA (High Court)

Bank of New York Mellon (Global) Ltd v. Cine-British isles Ltd & other individuals (High Court)

Disappointment is quite not likely to rescue contracting functions having difficulties to fulfill payment obligations as a result of the impression of COVID-19 limits

The doctrine of disappointment brings a contract to an stop where an occasion takes place immediately after the formation of the contract, rendering the deal bodily or commercially extremely hard to fulfil or building the obligation to accomplish radically distinctive. The courts treat this as a high threshold to meet.

Recent decisions of the English courts illustrate how challenging it is to efficiently argue disappointment.

In Wilmington Trust v. Spicejet, a disappointment assert in relation to the lease of aircraft was turned down. The court docket held that suspension of use of the aircraft (partly because of to COVID-19 constraints and partly due to a determination to floor unique models of aircraft following incidents) for about 10{e421c4d081ed1e1efd2d9b9e397159b409f6f1af1639f2363bfecd2822ec732a} of the lease phrase did not amount of money to irritation. 

Spicejet follows on from the situation of Salam Air v. Latam Airlines in which a claim that the lease of an plane was pissed off by the grounding of flights in reaction to COVID-19 was similarly turned down.  The court concluded that annoyance did not arise due to the fact the objective of the lease was simply just to present possession of the plane. There was no widespread purpose to operate the leased aircrafts commercially.

The courtroom in Bank of New York Mellon v. Cine-United kingdom considered the doctrine of stress in the context of a assert by the landlords of industrial premises for payment of lease. The tenants adopted a creative argument that their leases experienced been “briefly disappointed” thanks to COVID-19 constraints, the influence of which was to justification non-effectiveness (the payment of hire) fairly than bring the lease to an close. This argument was turned down, with the court concluding that there was no this kind of thing as momentary annoyance. 

Deal interpretation

Parks of Hamilton (Holdings) Ltd v. Scottish Football Affiliation Ltd (Outer Household, Courtroom of Session)

Coal Pension Homes Restricted v. Technip British isles Restricted (Outer Dwelling, Courtroom of Session) 

The purposive strategy to agreement interpretation prevails in Scotland 

Our evaluations of the top deal legislation scenarios of 2019 and 2020 highlighted the Interior House’s advertising of a purposive strategy to agreement interpretation in Scotland, with industrial popular sense playing a crucial position.  This method has a notable variance in emphasis from the steering of the Supreme Court and Court docket of Appeal in England, where by the language used by the agreement drafters is recognized as the major consideration.

The purposive approach is now well established in Scotland, with an case in point of its software witnessed in the Interior House’s interpretation of the SFA’s Posts of Association in Parks of Hamilton v. SFA. The Lord President summed up the right method to agreement interpretation as remaining “a contract will have to be construed objectively, contextually, purposively, and in a manner which accords with professional typical sense”.

We also noted past 12 months that Outer Residence business judges appeared to perspective professional widespread feeling as getting a more limited part than that promoted by the Interior Household. Adoption of the purposive strategy is now filtering via to the first occasion courts. In Coal Pension Qualities Confined v. Technip British isles Confined, Lord Tyre adopted the Internal House’s steering in stating that the courtroom must undertake a purposive method in interpreting provisions in a lease, acquiring regard to the “essential aims that acceptable folks in the parties’ situation would have had in thoughts”, as perfectly as commercial popular feeling.

The challenge with such statements is that, when disputes arise, it gets tough for lawyers to predict whether the genuine language selected by the parties will be regarded by a courtroom as offering the principal indicator of a contract’s this means or other aspects such as the total function of the deal and business prevalent feeling.  

Necessary ADR terms 

Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners v. McLaughlin & Harvey Restricted (Inner Property, Court docket of Session)

Better Glasgow Well being Board v. Multiplex Construction Europe Ltd (Outer Property, Court of Session)

Obligatory dispute resolution provisions requiring adjudication or arbitration do not prohibit commencing court docket motion to stay away from the prescription of claims 

In the Internal Property scenario of Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners v. McLaughlin & Harvey Restricted and the Outer Dwelling scenario of Increased Glasgow Health and fitness Board v. Multiplex Building Europe Limited, the courts verified that contractual terms requiring disputes to be established by way of adjudication or arbitration do not entirely preclude the courts’ jurisdiction.

A courtroom motion might be commenced to prevent the procedure of prescription or in order to secure diligence on the dependence of an action. The proper system of motion would then be for the courtroom motion to be sisted pending conclusion of the adjudication or arbitration method.