Spurling v Bradshaw [1956] 1 WLR 461

Validity of contractual clause purporting to exclude liability for negligence of bailees

Facts

Bradshaw sent eight barrels of orange juice to be stored at Spurling’s warehouse. Spurling sent a receipt to Bradshaw on which were printed their conditions of storage. The conditions contained a clause purporting to exclude liability for any losses resulting from their negligence. Bradshaw fell into arrears with his storage payments and Spurling brought an action to recover the monies due. The orange juice was spoiled and unusable, and Bradshaw counterclaimed in negligence.

Issues

Bradshaw alleged Spurling were negligent, and in breach of an implied term to take reasonable care of the barrels because they had left them in the open air and the orange juice had spoiled. He further contended he had not been given sufficient notice of the exemption clause and, therefore, Spurling should not be able to rely on it. Spurling denied negligence and argued they could rely on the exemption clause even if they had been negligent. The clause had been brought to the attention of Bradshaw and was clear and unambiguous in its meaning.

Held

Although it had not been proven that Spurling had been negligent, even if they had been negligent, they would be able to rely on the exclusion clause to avoid liability. Sufficient notice of the clause had been given so as to make it a term of the contract. Exemption clauses will operate to protect a party only where he is carrying out his contract and not where he is deviating from it in a fundamental respect.