Thompson v London, Midland and Scottish Rly Co

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Thompson v London, Midland and Scottish Rly Co Ltd
Darwen railway station - - 2071996.jpg
CourtCourt of Appeal
Contract, exclusion clause

Thompson v London, Midland and Scottish Railway Co Ltd [1930] 1 KB 41 is an English contract law case, concerning the exclusion of liability. It was described by Lord Denning MR in George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd as part of "a bleak winter for our law of contract." [1] Although the same decision would not be reached today because of the application of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, English courts continue to assess on an objective basis whether reasonable notice has been given of terms and conditions so as to incorporate them in the contract.

English contract law Law of contracts in England and Wales

English contract law is a body of law regulating contracts in England and Wales. With its roots in the lex mercatoria and the activism of the judiciary during the industrial revolution, it shares a heritage with countries across the Commonwealth, and to a lesser extent the United States. It is also experiencing gradual change because of the UK's membership of the European Union and international organisations like Unidroit. Any agreement that is enforceable in court is a contract. Because a contract is a voluntary obligation, in contrast to paying compensation for a tort and restitution to reverse unjust enrichment, English law places a high value on ensuring people have truly consented to the deals that bind them in court.

<i>George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd</i>

George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd [1982] EWCA Civ 5 and [1983] 2 AC 803 is a case on the sale of goods and exclusion clauses. It was decided under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977

The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which regulates contracts by restricting the operation and legality of some contract terms. It extends to nearly all forms of contract and one of its most important functions is limiting the applicability of disclaimers of liability. The terms extend to both actual contract terms and notices that are seen to constitute a contractual obligation.



Mrs Thompson slipped on a ramp while disembarking a train operated by London, Midland and Scottish Railway at 10pm, from Manchester to Darwen, and was injured. The train had pulled up just past the platform, and so the ramp she stepped out on was slippery. A special jury found the railway to have been negligent, and so Mrs Thompson sought damages for personal injury. She had been given an excursion ticket by her niece, which said ‘Excursion. For conditions see back’ which in turn referred to the Railway’s timetables and excursion bills. The timetables could be bought for sixpence said the tickets were issued on condition that holders ‘shall have no rights of action against the company .... in respect of .... injury (fatal or otherwise) .... however caused.’ A jury found that the company had not taken reasonable steps to bring the conditions to the notice of Mrs Thompson and awarded damages. But then the judge, as a matter of law, held that when the ticket was accepted the contract was complete, and so the jury was not entitled to find as they did. Mrs Thompson could not read.

London, Midland and Scottish Railway British “Big 4” railway company, active 1923–1947

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) was a British railway company. It was formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railways into four. The companies merged into the LMS included the London and North Western Railway, Midland Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, several Scottish railway companies, and numerous other, smaller ventures.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 2.7 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.

Darwen market town in Lancashire, UK

Darwen is a market town and civil parish located in Lancashire, England. Along with its northerly neighbour, Blackburn, it forms the Borough of Blackburn with Darwen — a unitary authority area. It is known locally as "Darren" and its residents are known as "Darreners". The main road through Darwen is the A666 towards Blackburn to the north and Bolton to the south, and ultimately at the Pendlebury boundary with Irlams o' th' Height where it joins the A6, about 21 miles (34 km) north-west of Manchester. Darwen's population decreased to 28,046 in 2011 and is made up of five wards.


Lord Harnworth MR held that, regardless of whether Mrs Thompson could read, she was bound by the contract, and the indication of further conditions by reference was sufficient notice. He said ‘we feel no difficulty in coming to a conclusion.’

Ernest Pollock, 1st Viscount Hanworth British politician

Ernest Murray Pollock, 1st Viscount Hanworth, KBE, PC was a British Conservative politician, lawyer and judge. He served as Master of the Rolls from 1923 to 1935.

Lawrence LJ and Sankey LJ concurred.

See also


  1. [1982] EWCA Civ 5

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