Beswick v Beswick [1968] AC 58

Key point

  • Specific performance may be ordered in lieu of nominal damages to produce a just result for a third party

Facts

  • P contracted with his nephew (D) to transfer his coal business in consideration of the nephew paying his widow (C) after his passes
  • When P died D refused to pay C
  • C sued both personally and in her capacity as P’s administratrix for breach of contract

Held (House of Lords)

  • C succeeded only in her capacity as administratrix
  • Specific performance was ordered for payment to be made

Lord Reid

  • Legislation is needed to give third parties the right to sue, but if there is further parliamentary procrastination the House of Lords will act on it
  • Only nominal damages could be given since the estate did not suffer any loss due to the breach, hence specific performance is required

Commentary

  • In a claim for monetary damages, specific performance has the same effect of letting a party to the contract sue for loss suffered by a third party
  • C has administratrix is a party to the contract whereas C in her personal capacity is a third party
  • The mere fact that only nominal damages can be obtained does not justify the order of specific performance, there must be something more that makes the award of nominal damages especially unjust, such in the present case where the widow would be left without support