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Winterbottom v. Wright

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Winterbottom v. Wright
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    Brief Fact Summary. Winterbottom (Plaintiff) was hurt when a coach broke down and threw him to the ground. Plaintiff sued Wright (Defendant), who maintained the coaches for Plaintiff’s employer.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. There must be privity between parties to an action in order for that action to be maintained.

    Facts. Defendant contracted with the Postmaster General to keep the coaches in a safe and secure condition. Plaintiff, a coach driver, was driving a coach serviced by Defendant and was hurt when a latent defect caused the coach to break down, throwing him to the ground and injuring him.

    Issue. Must there be privity in order for Plaintiff to sue Defendant for negligence?

    Held. Yes. Judgment for Defendant.
    * Unless a public duty was undertaken, parties to a contract are liable only to each other for breaches of the contract. If third-party actions were permitted, contracting parties would be exposed to unlimited liability from any number of suits. In this case, Plaintiff is not in privity of contract with Defendant. It is clear that he is not, because if he were, we would have sued under the contract.

    Discussion. There must be privity between parties to a suit. Privity is a legal bridge. It is a connection, or bond of union, between parties, as to some particular transaction. In this case, Plaintiff and Defendant were not in privity with one another. There was no contract between them and Defendant had not undertaken and breached any public duty.


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