Thursday, August 2, 2018

Martin Kwan Warns Practitioners on the Precedential Value of Unreported Judgments on the Interpretation of Standard Contract Terms (Business L Rev)

Martin YC Kwan (PCLL candidate)
2018, Vol. 39, Issue 4, pp. 136-8
Abstract: In the recent Court of Appeal decision Allianz Insurance Plc v. Tonicstar Limited [2018] EWCA Civ 434, the Court did not follow the previous interpretation of a standard contract term made by an unreported High Court judgment in 2000. Whilst the Court could lawfully not follow the unreported judgment given (1) the contractual interpretation was just a non-binding finding of fact and (2) the unreported judgment was made by a lower court, a critical reason why the Court did not follow it was because the Court considered the unreported status meant the interpretation was not well known. The meaning of the contract term thus has not been settled by the previous inconspicuous interpretation, which meant it was amenable to reinterpretation. This note suggests that practitioners should be mindful when relying on unreported judgments on contractual interpretation. Although the Court did not expressly and generally devalue any unreported judgment, the Court’s reasoning may be understood to have diminished its precedential value on the interpretation of standard contract terms. It will also be argued that there would be more certainty if the Court had not made such a distinction based on the status of being reported and unreported when considering whether a clause has been given a settled meaning by a previous judgment.

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