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Raphael Wiseman v. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd


Queen’s Bench Division

The claimant (W) claimed damages for breach of contract against the defendant airline (V). W had purchased a return ticket from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. When W presented his return ticket in Nigeria, V refused to let him on the flight, accused him of having a fake passport and ridiculed him in front of a group of friends from his church. He was eventually permitted to return to the UK 12 days after his scheduled flight. Following his return, his relationship with his fiancée (B) broke down. During the time when he was forced to remain in Nigeria, he was assaulted by robbers. V admitted liability from the outset; the main issue to be determined was the quantification of W's compensation.

HELD: (1) The only sums recoverable were the legitimate expenses that W had incurred as a result of V's failure to honour the return ticket. That head of damage included costs of accommodation, food, transport, telephone calls and postage. (2) W could not recover expenses incurred by B as a result of his prolonged stay in Nigeria. Such sums were not recoverable because she had no contractual relations with V, and her expenses did not flow from V's breach. In any event it was too remote. Moreover, it could not be said, on the balance of probabilities, that V's breach of contract actually caused W's relationship with B to breakdown, but even if it did, there could be no claim for distress, Watts v Morrow (1991) HLR 608 considered. (3) W could not claim for the expenses incurred by his friends from the church as the damage was too remote. (4) W's non-pecuniary losses were irrecoverable. Compensation for injury to reputation, hurt feelings or mental trauma could not be recoverable and the damage was too remote. While in some circumstances it could be appropriate to compensate for a breakdown in health, it would have had to be demonstrated that at the relevant time when the contract was entered into, it had been the contemplation of the parties that such a breakdown would be "a not unlikely consequence" of a breach. However, it could not have been said to be in the contemplation of V and W that the mere fact of not permitting a passenger to board the aircraft would lead to a breakdown in health. (5) Although it was clear that if W had not been forced to remain in Nigeria, the robbery would not have occurred, the consequences of the attack could not be compensated by way of damages for the breach. V's refusal to permit him on the flight was not the causa causans of the robbery, but the causa sine qua non, Burton v Pinkerton (1866-67) LR 2 Ex 340 applied, Hobbs v London & South Western Railway Co (1874-75) LR 10 QB 111 and Cook v Swinfen (1967) 1 WLR 457 considered.

Damages assessed.

[2006] EWHC 1566 (QB) / LTL 6/7/2006

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