Winterbottom v Wright

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Citation: Winterbottom v Wright (1842) 10 M & W 109; 152 ER 402

This information can be found in the Textbook: Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 367-9


Background facts

  • The Defendant [Wright] supplied coaches to the Post Master General (PMG).
  • The Plaintiff [Winterbottom] was a coachman whose employer supplied coachmen to the PMG.
  • The coach was defective. It broke down while the Plaintiff was driving and he was injured.
  • The Plaintiff attempted to sue the Defendant because he supplied a defective coach.

Legal issues


  • There was no privity (contract) between the Plaintiff and Defendant.
    • Separate contracts existed: Plaintiff-employer, employer-PMG, PMG-Defendant.
  • If the Plaintiff is allowed to sue, every passenger who was injured may be allowed to bring an action. In the interests of preventing absurdity, contracts such as these need to be limited to the parties who expressly entered into them.
  • Here, unlike Langridge v Levy, no fraud was committed. The defendant had fulfilled his duty to his employer, the PMG. While there was a duty towards the PMG to keep the carriages fit and safe, there was no duty towards the plaintiff.
  • The judge is reluctant to award damages simply because of sympathy. This would set a precedent which will result in bad law
    • "Hard cases, it has been frequently observed, are apt to introduce bad law."


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