§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor).
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The LORD STANMORE in the Chair].
§ Clause 1:
§ Apportionment of liability in case of contributory negligence.
§ 1.—(1) Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of any other person or persons, a claim in respect of that damage shall not he defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant's share in the responsibility for the damage:
§ Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any claim under a contract and shall not operate to defeat any defence arising under a contract.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON) moved, in subsection (1), to omit the proviso and insert:
The noble and learned Viscount said: I ask your Lordships to make the Amendment in the Bill that is printed on the Paper available at the Table. It does not touch the main provision of the Bill at all, but following the main provision there is a proviso, and I recall that on
Second Reading my noble friend Lord Nathan observed, as I also observed, that it might perhaps be necessary to re-examine the terms of it. That has been done and I think the form in which I now suggest we should put the proviso should meet all difficulties. I want to remove the presen proviso and to insert instead:
this is quite a new point—
where any contract or enactment providing for the limitation of liability is applicable to the claim, the amount of damages recoverable by the claimant by virtue of this subsection shall not exceed the maximum limit so applicable.
§ The first of those two matters, paragraph (a), was I think explained on Second Reading. The new law generally introduces a most beneficient change, but is not of course intended to override an express contract and you must therefore say so. Of more interest perhaps is the second paragraph, marked (b). Your Lordships will be aware that there are a number of statutory provisions in our law which fix a ceiling above which the amount of damages paid for certain kinds of negligence cannot go. A very good example is in the Merchant Shipping Act, where the owner in respect of a particular catastrophe is as a maximum liable for £8 a ton I think in case of goods, and £15 a ton in the case of passengers, provided always that it is not the owner's personal fault that the disaster has happened. If you did not do that then of course the owner of a small vessel, perhaps carrying two or three passengers, might find himself completely bankrupt owing to the claim, and it is thought right to fix a limit. A very familiar thing, which your Lordships must have noticed when standing in the hall of a hotel, is the section in the Innkeepers Act, which by law has to be put up at the entrance of the hotel, which limits the amount the innkeeper will have to pay to meet certain kinds of claim. So this provision is purely for the purpose of clearness.
§ I think myself the effect of the Bill as it stands is not altered in the least by putting in these words, but it is no use leaving a possible doubt, with the result that you might get litigation which might cost a great deal and do nobody any good. 861 It is much better to put down here in plain English that those limits will continue to apply. For example, if there has been total damage to the amount of, say, £4,000 and the plaintiff under this Bill is held to be one-quarter to blame, then under the main subsection of the Bill he may lose a quarter of £4,000 and be entitled to £3,000. But if the existing statutory ceiling was £2,000 he would not get £3,000, he would get £2,000. That is merely to illustrate how it works. I have looked at it with great care and have had the help of others very familiar with the matter. I have no doubt at all it would be well to put this in, although, as I have said, I believe the Bill without it would mean exactly the same as it does with it. I beg to move.
Page 1, leave out lines 12 to 14 and insert the said new proviso.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD NATHAN
As I said on the Second Reading of this Bill, I thought there was some obscurity in the proviso and the learned Lord Chancellor concurred in that view. I ventured to suggest that it might be worthy of reconsideration. The learned Lord Chancellor has reconsidered it and he has put down this Amendment, which seems to me admirably drawn to make clear what formerly was vague.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.