Bellgrove v Eldridge

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Citation: Bellgrove v Eldridge (1954) 90 CLR 613.

This information can be found in the Casebook: Paterson, Robertson & Duke, Contract: Cases and Materials (Lawbook Co, 11th ed, 2009), p. 646-8 [26.125].


Background facts

  • The Appellant entered a contract with the Respondent by which he was to build her a house under certain specifications in return for a certain sum.
  • The Appellant built the house with substantial departures from the specifications of the Respondent.
    • The house may even be unstable because of those departures.
  • The Respondent seeks extensive damages. The issue is how are the damages ascertained.


  • The Appellant argued that the proper measure of damages was the difference between the value of the house if it was built according to the specification and the value of the house now (without the specifications).

Legal issues


Dixon CJ, Webb and & Taylor JJ:

  • Whilst damages are meant to financially restore a plaintiff, the argument of the Appellant does not apply here.
    • This is partly because a departure from the specifications doesn't always affect the value (eg, if the builder paints it a different colour etc). If the Appellant's argument is accepted, a plaintiff in such a scenario will be left without a remedy.
  • The damages awarded will be the cost of demolishing the house and building a new one, according to the specifications. This is the only way to truly compensate the owner.
    • 'The respondent was entitled to have a building erected upon her land in accordance with the contract and the plans and specification which formed part of it, and her damage is the loss which she has sustained by the failure of the builder to perform his obligations to her'.[1]
    • 'This loss can prima facie, be measured only by ascertaining the amount required to rectify the defects complained of and so give to her the equivalent of a building on her land which is substantially in accordance with the contract'.[2]
  • The qualification to this rule is that the rectification 'must be a reasonable course to adopt'.[3]
    • For example, a house built with superior bricks to the one specified cannot be demolished in order to be built with lesser quality bricks. That is unreasonable.
  • It is irrelevant whether the Plaintiff actually goes ahead and does the rectification with the damages he received...he can get the damages and do nothing with them.
  • Because the house appears to be unstable, it is not unreasonable to rectify the house. Therefore the Respondent's damages will be the cost of demolishing and rebuilding.


  1. (1954) 90 CLR 613, 617.
  2. (1954) 90 CLR 613, 617.
  3. (1954) 90 CLR 613, 618.
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