Contractual Limitations on Damages

Contractual limitations on damages are of critical importance, allowing parties to assess more effectively and better control business risks arising from a commercial transaction. It is not surprising, therefore, that today many commercial contracts include some form of damage limitation. Yet, despite their prevalence, contractual limitations on damages give rise to difficult questions that go to the heart of the legal system, such as how to balance the parties’ freedom to contract against provisions of mandatory law, and the weight to be given to the respective interests of creditors and debtors.

Contractual limitations on damages are agreements whereby the parties limit the availability of damages that would otherwise be available under statutory law. They differ from more general ‘exemption clauses’[2] or ‘liability limitations’[3] – clauses that absolve a party, whether in whole or in part, from liability under a contract or for a related tort, or that qualify that liability – in that contractual limitations on damages relate specifically, and exclusively, to damages. Clauses that go beyond a limitation of damages, for example, because they exclude the coming into being of a contractual duty in the first place, are not the primary focus of this chapter.

After first considering some general aspects relating to contractual limitations on damages (see ‘General aspects of contractual limitations on damages’), we address the different forms that these limitations generally take (see ‘Forms of contractual limitations on damages’). Although the scope of the chapter does not allow for an in-depth analysis of how contractual limitations on damages are dealt with under different legal systems, red flags that practitioners should keep in mind when confronted with these provisions are highlighted.

General aspects of contractual limitations on damages

Agreements on contractual limitations on damages and their incorporation

A contractual limitation on damages needs to be agreed by the contracting parties. It thus requires a contractual relationship between the creditor and the debtor.[4]

As long as there is consensus on the content, provisions containing contractual limitations on damages can normally be included in a contract without further ado.[5]

In general, contract terms can also be implied, and be incorporated through the conduct of the parties. However, reading a limitation of damages into a contract based on party conduct will rarely be done in practice, and requires a previous course of dealings between the parties on the same terms.[6] In particular, mere personal relationships or the existence of goodwill will generally not suffice to assume a limitation of liability.[7]

Limitations on damages are frequently contained in general terms and conditions (GTCs), which are contract terms that are pre-formulated by one party.[8] They are only effectively included in an agreement when the contract itself refers to them.[9] In civil law systems, the contracting party needs to have the possibility to take note of the GTCs that were pre-formulated by the other party,[10] whereas in other systems it may suffice for the written agreement referring to the GTCs to be signed for them to be binding.[11] In civil law systems, any GTC provisions that are considered so unusual that they could not reasonably have been expected will typically not be considered to be a valid part of the agreement and, thus, are invalid.[12] On the other hand, common law systems frequently require a showing of fraud or misrepresentation for a party to be able to escape the consequences of its signature.[13] Similarly, if a party claims to have misunderstood the GTCs, it will have to satisfy the court that the document is radically different from that which the party intended to sign and that the mistake was not the result of carelessness.[14] Some civil law countries, in particular Germany, govern in detail the limitations of liability allowed in standard terms (see ‘Limits of contractual limitations on damages’, below).

Interpretation and construction of contractual limitations on damages

Contractual limitations on damages are interpreted in the same manner as other contractual provisions, with the aim being to determine the parties’ actual intent.[15] Courts use several methods to determine the parties’ intent.

The starting point is usually the wording used by the parties, but the purpose of the agreement and the organisation of the various provisions of an agreement are also considered and may prevail over a strict interpretation of the wording.[16] For example, a damage limitation clause may be so broad and general in scope that to apply it literally would create an absurdity or defeat the main purpose of the contract into which the parties have entered.[17] The courts will then need to ascertain the objective meaning to give effect to the objectively intended agreement of the parties.

In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, the contra proferentem rule (i.e., the interpretation of an ambiguous contractual provision against the party that proffered the provision) is sometimes used.[18] However, this rule ought not to be taken as the starting point and should only be used to resolve ambiguity.[19] Furthermore, the rule that damage limitation clauses and, more broadly, exemption clauses need to be interpreted strictly is frequently applied.[20] In Internet Broadcasting Corp Ltd (t/a NETTV) v. MAR/LLC (t/a MARHedge),[21] the High Court of England and Wales held that there is a presumption, which appears to be a strong presumption, against exemption clauses being construed so as to cover deliberate, repudiatory breaches. Similarly, in Bovis Construction (Scotland) Ltd v. Whatlings Construction Ltd,[22] the House of Lords held that a clause that limited liability should state ‘clearly and unambiguously the scope of the limitation and would be construed “with a degree of strictness”, albeit not to the same extent as an exclusion or indemnity clause’.

Special consideration is required when an agreement provides for both a warranty or guarantee of a certain quality of the goods or services and a limitation of liability. In such a case, interpretation of the agreement may lead to the conclusion that one of the clauses prevails, for example, when the warranty is contained in the main text of the agreement and the limitation of liability in the annexed standard terms.[23] However, if a party gives a warranty without at the same time also assuming liability for a breach of the warranty, the warranty may be considered to be consistent with the limitation of liability.[24]

Burden of proof

It is for the party seeking to rely on a damage limitation clause to show that, in its true construction, the clause covers the obligation or damage that it purports to restrict or exclude.[25]

Limits of contractual limitations on damages

Party autonomy and contractual freedom are not unlimited. Limitations of liability and of damages are well-suited examples to illustrate the boundaries placed on contractual freedom by mandatory law. Statutory limitations to contractual agreements limiting the availability of damages are common in virtually all countries.

In Germany, parties cannot agree in advance to exclude liability and, thus, also damages for unlawful intent.[26] If contained in standard terms, an agreement to exclude liability for negligence will be considered invalid in the event of a violation of essential duties.[27] Swiss law is more rigid, as it provides that any agreement purporting to exclude or limit liability or damages for unlawful intent or gross negligence in advance is void.[28] The court also has discretion to invalidate an advance exclusion of liability for minor negligence in certain cases.[29] Even narrower restrictions exist for consumer contracts and if the limitation on damages is contained in GTCs.[30]

In New York, the courts have a policy against limiting liability in contracts in cases of grossly negligent conduct and of purely intentional wrongdoing.[31]

In England, the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA) restricts the operation and legality of some contract terms. The Act contains a number of restrictions to limitations of liability, which mainly concern the liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence. In addition, the UCTA applies a reasonableness test, requiring that any term ‘shall have been a fair and reasonable one to be included having regard to the circumstances which were, or ought reasonably to have been, known to or in the contemplation of the parties when the contract was made’.[32]

Contractual limitations on damages that exceed the statutory limits for exclusions of liability (which also apply to exclusions of damages) are not effective, or may be void or voidable. Depending on the applicable law and the type of contractual limitation involved, the limitation on damages may be rendered absolutely ineffective or it may be partially effective, in particular, only insofar as the term does not exceed the limits of mandatory law or satisfies the requirement of reasonableness in the common law system. There is a debate about whether clauses exceeding the statutory limits shall be reduced to the extent permitted, in particular, with a view to avoid creating incentives for parties to include excessive limitation clauses.[33] A party intending to include a limitation clause, therefore, should carefully check the statutory limits applicable to the limitation of damages and the fate of clauses exceeding the limits.

Consequences of contractual limitation on damages

Contractual limitations on damages that are validly agreed and that do not go beyond the limits described above are valid and serve to limit the availability of damages.[34] In particular, the damaging party is released from the duty to pay damages that would otherwise exist. It must be carefully assessed, however, whether a contractual limitation on damages excludes only contractual damages or also tort damages.[35] On the other hand, a primary duty to perform will not be affected by contractual limitations on damages.[36]

Forms of contractual limitations on damages

Liquidated damages and penalty clauses

Common law jurisdictions distinguish clearly between liquidated damages and penalties.

Liquidated damages are an amount contractually stipulated as a reasonable estimation of the actual damages to be recovered by one party if another party breaches an agreement.[37] Traditionally, courts have upheld liquidated damages clauses.[38]

On the other hand, penalty clauses are contractual provisions that assess against a defaulting party an excessive monetary charge unrelated to actual harm.[39] Penalty clauses are generally considered unenforceable.[40] In the words of Professor P S Atiyah:

It not infrequently happens that contracts provide for what is to happen in the event of a breach by the parties, or by one of them. Such provisions may be perfectly simple attempts to avoid future disputes, and to quantify the probable amount of any loss. That is unobjectionable. But sometimes clauses of this kind are not designed to quantify the amount of the probable loss, but are designed to terrorize, or frighten, the party into performance. For example, a contract may provide that the promisor is to pay £5 on a certain event, but if he fails to do so, he must then pay £500. Now a clause of that kind is called a penalty clause by lawyers, and for several hundred years it has been the law that such promises cannot be enforced. The standard justification for the law here is that it is unfair and unconscionable to enforce clauses which are designed to act in terrorem.[41]

Although the parties’ choice of ‘penalty’ or ‘liquidated damages’ in their contract will serve as prima facie evidence of the term actually stipulated, the expression used by the parties will not be conclusive. Rather, the court will have to determine whether the payment stipulated constitutes a penalty or liquidated damages.[42] To assist this task of construction, various tests have been suggested. The traditional approach focused on the question of whether a given clause was a genuine pre-estimate of the loss that the aggrieved party was likely to suffer.[43] More recently, it was held that a clause may be also be justified on the basis that a party has a legitimate interest in securing performance rather than damages, provided that the amount of damages stipulated in such a clause is not extravagant and unconscionable in comparison with that the party’s interest.[44]

There is no such general exclusion of penalty clauses in civil law countries – quite the contrary. In Switzerland, Germany and Austria, a penalty can be promised for non-performance or defective performance of a contract and, unless otherwise agreed, the creditor may then compel performance or claim the penalty.[45] In fact, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has confirmed that a contractual penalty may be agreed for the purpose of punishing one of the parties.[46] The penalty is payable even if the creditor has not suffered any loss or damage.[47] The parties are free to determine the amount of the contractual penalty.[48] However, under Swiss, German and Austrian law, the court may use its discretion to reduce penalties that it considers excessive.[49]

Liquidated damages and penalty clauses are thus treated differently in various legal systems.

Stipulation of a maximum amount of damages (limitation clauses)

Clauses limiting the amount of damages, also called limitation clauses, are generally admissible in common law. Pursuant to Ailsa Craig Fishing Co Ltd v. Malvem Fishing Co Ltd:

Clauses of limitation are not regarded by the courts with the same hostility as clauses of exclusion: this is because they must be related to other contractual terms, in particular to the risks to which the defending party may be exposed, the remuneration which he receives, and possibly also the opportunity of the other party to insure.[50]

There is even case law holding that the principle of strict construction is not applicable when considering the effect of clauses merely limiting damages.[51] The modern view, however, seems to be that the general approach to interpretation, which is to ascertain the objective intention of the parties, also applies to limitation clauses.[52] Under English law, a clause providing for a maximum amount of damages will be valid if the limitation is considered to be reasonable.[53] With regard to contract terms that restrict damages to a specified sum of money, the UCTA provides that regard shall be had in particular to (1) the resources that the person seeking to restrict damages could expect to be available to that person for the purpose of meeting the liability should it arise, and (2) how far it was open to that person to obtain insurance cover. The contract value and the turnover of the party seeking to restrict damages are also taken into consideration.[54]

In civil law systems, caps on damages are generally valid, albeit only to the extent that the cap does not violate the statutory limits to limitations of damages that have been discussed above.[55] Moreover, in some civil law jurisdictions, these types of restrictions will be examined to ensure that they do not unduly restrict damages in such a manner as to exclude coverage of the actual damages incurred.[56]

Clauses stipulating a maximum amount of damages are thus generally admissible, although they may nevertheless be subject to substantial restrictions, particularly in certain civil law systems.

Exclusion of a particular damage type

Contractual limitations of damages may also limit the availability of certain types of damages.

Damages arising from death or personal injury can hardly ever be excluded. For example, under English law, the UCTA provides that a person ‘cannot by reference to any contract term or to a notice given to persons generally or to particular persons exclude or restrict his liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence’.[57] Similarly, under Swiss law, clauses excluding liability for personal injury are ineffective.[58] If liability for personal injury cannot be excluded, it is difficult to conceive how damages for personal injury could be excluded. It may thus be preferable to make a reservation for damages arising out of personal injury when drafting clauses limiting the availability of damages.

On the other hand, loss or damage that does not result directly or naturally from a breach of contract can generally be excluded, unless the limitation exceeds the mandatory limits.[59] These damages are referred to as consequential damages or indirect damages.[60]

Under English law, case law provides guidance with regard to what is considered a consequential loss or damage and to what extent a clause excluding consequential loss or damage is effective. For example, in British Sugar Plc v. NEI Power Projects Ltd,[61] the relevant clauses provided that the seller:

will be liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred by the purchaser arising from the supply of any such faulty goods or material or any goods or materials not being suitable for the purpose for which they are required, save that the seller’s liability for consequential loss is limited to the value of the contract.

The value of the contract was £106,000, while the damages claimed for the breach were £5 million. The Court of Appeal stated that the word ‘consequential’ does not cover any loss that directly and naturally results in the ordinary course of events from the breach of contract and that the clause thus simply limited the liability for loss and damage not directly arising from the breach to an amount equal to the value of the contract. Similarly, in Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemical Group v. Davy McKee (London) Ltd,[62] the clause explicitly excluded ‘indirect or consequential damages’ and ‘loss of profits’. The court considered the lost profits as damages that flow directly from the breach. However, since the clause expressly excluded lost profits, these could not be recovered. English courts also frequently give consideration to Hadley v. Baxendale[63] to determine which damages directly follow from a breach.[64] However, more recent English decisions have criticised the traditionally narrow interpretation of a consequential loss exclusion and seem to favour a broader interpretation.[65] For example, in Star Polaris LLC v. HHIC-PHIL INC,[66] the Commercial Court considered a clause excluding ‘consequential or special losses, damages or expenses’ in a contract for the construction of a cargo ship. The Court concluded that the limitation clause was intended to exclude liability for losses over and above those specifically accepted (which were limited to repair of defects and physical damage). Although it remains to be seen whether recent case law leads to a real change, the latest decisions make it clear that courts will have a close look at each contract and the circumstances of each case when construing limitation clauses.

In civil law countries, the terminology is less clear. In Switzerland, the distinction between direct and indirect damages is made on the basis of the length of the causal chain involved (i.e., it needs to be assessed whether the damage was caused directly by the breach (or defect) or only by the occurrence of further causes of damage).[67] Moreover, lost profits are generally considered to be indirect damages, but they can constitute direct damages; for example, if the seller in a sales contract is aware that the buyer will resell the goods with profit.[68] However, under German law, indirect damages are damages affecting an asset other than the object of the contract that was breached.[69] The boundaries placed on limitations on damages by statutory law also apply to any types of damages that are excluded. For example, under Swiss law, the governing principle is that damages for gross negligence cannot be excluded. Accordingly, even if the contract excludes consequential damages, any consequential damages arising from gross negligence will still be owed, as long as the damages are within the causal chain and can still be considered as having been caused by the breach.[70] Similarly, exclusions of indirect damages under German law will be invalid to the extent that they are contained in GTCs and seek to exclude any damages arising out of a violation of essential duties.[71]

In summary, in civil law systems, exclusions of a particular type of damage need to be viewed against the mandatory liability for damages arising from gross negligence or wilful misconduct. Clauses excluding consequential damages are thus generally only valid to the extent that the damages arise from simple negligence or without fault. On the other hand, common law systems tend to accept exclusions of different types of damages, as long as the exclusions are reasonable; in fact, it may be precisely the exclusion of consequential damages but not direct damages that may render an exemption clause reasonable.

Modifications regarding other aspects resulting in a limitation of damages

Further clauses may also have the effect of limiting damages. For example, the parties may agree to shorten the time limit for the notification of a breach of contract or shorten the statutory limitation periods to the extent permissible under the applicable law.[72] The parties may also modify the statutory burden of proof or the standard of proof. For example, under Swiss law, obligors who fail to discharge an obligation must make amends for the resulting loss or damage unless they can prove that they were not at fault.[73] The parties can amend this principle by agreeing that the injured party needs to prove that an obligor was at fault, which may – as the case may be – have the effect of a limitation on damages.

These examples show that the position of the creditor may be affected by clauses modifying the modalities of liability. These clauses, if admissible under the applicable law, may have the same effect as contractual limitations of damages in the strict sense.

Limitation of damages owed by third parties

A different issue is whether contractual limitations can operate to protect a person who is not a party to the contract.

Common law tradition generally considers that the principle of privity of contract prevents a contractual agreement from granting benefits to third parties or imposing burdens on them.[74] Based on this principle, courts have traditionally considered that third parties cannot claim the benefit of a clause limiting liability, and thus also of a damage limitation clause between two contracting parties, since they are not a party to that contract.[75] These decisions have been considered to be too rigid, in particular between parties to an arm’s-length business trans­action. In Scruttons Ltd v. Midland Silicones Ltd,[76] the argument was made that the contracting party, in addition to contracting on that party’s own behalf, is also contracting as an agent for the third party to whom the provisions should apply. The situation has become clearer with the enactment of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999. Section 1(6) of this Act provides that where ‘a term of a contract excludes or limits liability in relation to any matter references in this Act to the third party enforcing the term shall be construed as references to his availing himself of the exclusion or limitation’.

In civil law systems, the parties to an agreement are generally allowed to limit their liability for any loss or damage caused by an associate to whom the performance of an obligation or the exercise of a right arising from a contractual obligation is delegated.[77] However, the majority view is that these types of clauses do not exclude the liability of the associate (based on tort, etc.).[78]

In summary, it seems that clauses limiting damages owed by third parties tend to be more effective under common law.

Conclusion

The above explanations demonstrate that the general concepts regarding how contractual limitations of damages can be agreed, how they are interpreted, who bears the burden of proving the limitations, and the consequences of those limitations are similar even in diverse legal traditions.

However, the enforceability of contractual limitations on damages varies quite heavily between the common law and civil law traditions. Although the common law system tends to apply a reasonableness test, civil law countries generally focus on the degree of fault and consider agreements purporting to exclude damages for unlawful intent and gross negligence in advance to be ineffective. This difference is crucial for the availability of several forms of contractual limitations on damages.

Differences in the approach towards contractual limitations on damages emerge in almost all forms of limitations on damages that have been assessed in this chapter.

Liquidated damages and penalty clauses are generally permissible in civil law systems, with the caveat that excessive penalties may be reduced by courts. On the other hand, penalty clauses, to the extent that they provide for a monetary charge unrelated to the actual harm, are generally considered ineffective in the common law tradition.

Stipulations of a maximum amount of damages are effective in the common law tradition if the limitation is reasonable. In civil law systems, caps on damages are only admissible if they do not restrict the damages to an extent that is not admissible under statutory law; in other words, in cases of wilful intent or gross negligence, a cap may not be effective.

Clauses that exclude a particular type of damages generally face the same differences in approach. One exception to this rule is damages arising from death or personal injury, which can hardly ever be excluded. On the other hand, the common law tradition generally considers the exclusion of consequential damages to be valid, as long as the exclusions are reasonable. But in civil law, exclusions of a particular type of damage do not seem to be very effective, since these limitations may not overcome the mandatory liability for damages arising from gross negligence and wilful misconduct.

Contractual limitations on damages can also appear through clauses that modify the liability with regard to other aspects, such as statutory limitation periods, which may have the same effect as contractual limitations on damages.

With regard to limitation of damages owed by third parties, it seems that the common law tradition allows third parties to avail themselves of the contractual limitation of damages, whereas this may not be the case in civil law systems.

When being faced with a damage limitation issue, the authors recommend following the checklist below, to assess the validity and consequences of the damage limitation clause concerned. However, in any event, the individual contractual limitation sought or in dispute must be assessed under the applicable law.

Damage limitation checklist

This checklist serves only as a guideline and is not a substitute for a careful review of the applicable law.

Is there an agreement on the limitation of damages?

  • Is there consensus with regard to the agreement on the limitation of damages?
  • Is the agreement or relevant clause on the limitation of damages contained
    in GTCs?

If yes, check applicable law for specific requirements with regard to damage limitation clauses in GTCs.

  • How does the agreement need to be interpreted?

Usually, the wording is the starting point. Common law systems may also apply the contra proferentem rule and interpret the damage limitation clause against the party that proffered the clause. Special consideration is required if an agreement provides for both a warranty and limitation of damages.

  • Has the party bearing the burden of proof established the existence, content and applicability of the damage limitation clause?

Generally, the party seeking to rely on the damage limitation clause bears the burden of proof.

Is the agreement on the limitation of damages valid?

  • Is the agreement a liquidated damages or penalty clause?

Liquidated damages and penalty clauses are generally permissible in civil law systems, with the caveat that excessive penalties may be reduced by courts. On the other hand, penalty clauses, to the extent that they provide for a monetary charge unrelated to the actual harm, are considered ineffective in the common law tradition.

  • Is the agreement a limitation clause stipulating a maximum amount of damages?

Stipulations of a maximum amount of damages are effective in the common law tradition if the limitation is reasonable. In civil law systems, caps on damages are only admissible if they do not restrict the damages to an extent that is not admissible under statutory law; in other words, in a case of wilful intent or gross negligence, a cap may not be effective.

  • Does the agreement exclude a particular type of damage?

Damages arising from death or personal injury can hardly ever be excluded. Apart from this general principle, the common law tradition generally considers the exclusion of consequential damages to be valid, as long the exclusions are reasonable. In civil law, exclusions of a particular type of damage do not seem to be very effective, since these limitations may not overcome the mandatory liability for damages arising from gross negligence and wilful misconduct.

  • Does the agreement limit damages owed by a third party?

With regard to limitation of damages owed to third parties, it seems that the common law tradition allows third parties to avail themselves of the contractual limitation of liability, while this may not be the case in civil law systems.

What is the consequence of a contractual limitation on damages?

Contractual limitations on damages serve to limit the availability of damages. However, it must be assessed whether only contractual damages are excluded or also tort damages. The primary duty to perform will not be affected.


Notes

[1] Gabrielle Nater-Bass and Stefanie Pfisterer are partners at Homburger AG.

[2] Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-001 (34th ed. 2021).

[3] Lörtscher, Vertragliche Haftungsbeschränkung im schweizerischen Kaufrecht, 6 (1977).

[4] ibid., at 9.

[5] id. Common law may require an exemption clause to be expressed clearly and without ambiguity – see Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-008 (34th ed. 2021).

[6] J Spurling Ltd v. Bradshaw [1956] 1 WLR 461.

[7] For German law, see Lorenz, Section 276, No. 51 in Bamberger/Roth/Hau/Poseck, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – Kommentar, Buch 1 (4th ed. 2019).

[8] Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts, Article 3(1). In some jurisdictions, the definition of general terms and conditions (GTCs) contains an additional element requiring that GTCs have been pre-formulated for a large number of contracts; see, e.g., German Civil Code, Section 305(1) as well as Swiss law.

[9] For German law, see Becker, Section 305, No. 45 in Bamberger/Roth/Hau/Poseck, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – Kommentar, Buch 1 (4th ed. 2019).

[10] For Swiss law, see Kuoni, Haftungsbegrenzung im schweizerischen deutschen und englischen Recht, para. 87 (2015).

[11] Mellish L J in Parker v. South Eastern Railway Co (1877) 2 C.P.D. 416.

[12] German Civil Code, Section 305c(1); see also the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, BGE 108 II 416, at cons. 1.

[13] Mellish L J in Parker v. South Eastern Railway Co (1877) 2 C.P.D. 416.

[14] Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 1-046 (12th ed. 2017).

[15] For Swiss law, see Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 18(1); for English law, see Kudos Catering Ltd v. Manchester Central Convention [2013] EWCA Civ 38, Transocean Drilling UK Ltd v. Providence Resources Plc [2016] EWCA Civ 372, Persimmon Homes Ltd v. Ove Arup and Partners Ltd [2015] EWHC 3573 (TCC). See also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-007 (34th ed. 2021). Under English law, more attention is being drawn towards an objective approach than a subjective one – see Chitty on Contracts , Volume 1, 13-047 (34th ed. 2021).

[16] For Swiss law, see Kuoni, Haftungsbegrenzung im schweizerischen deutschen und englischen Recht, para. 389 et seq. (2015).

[17] Suisse Atlantique Société d’Armement Maritime SA v. NV Rotterdamsche Kolen Centrale [1967] 1 A.C. 361, 398, subsequently upheld by Photo Production Ltd v. Securicor Transport Ltd [1980] UKHL 2. See also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-010 (34th ed. 2021).

[18] Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 2-005 (12th ed. 2017).

[19] Nobahar-Cookson v. Hut Group Ltd [2016] EWCA Civ 128; Taberna Europe CDO II Plc v. Selskabet [2016] EWCA Civ 1262; Persimmon Homes Ltd v. Ove Arup and Partners Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 373. See also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-012 (34th ed. 2021).

[20] Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 2-14 (12th ed. 2017).

[21] [2009] EWHC 844 (Ch). See also Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 2-014 (12th ed. 2017).

[22] [1995] NPC 153. See also Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 2-019 (12th ed. 2017).

[23] See the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, BGE 93 II 317, at cons. 4. See also Schwenzer, Beschränkung und Modifikation der vertraglichen Haftung, 109-110, in Koller, Haftung aus Vertrag (1998).

[24] See the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, BGE 41 II 437.

[25] Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-021 (34th ed. 2021).

[26] German Civil Code, Section 276(3).

[27] ibid., at Section 307(2)(2).

[28] Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 100(1). Even more rigid provisions can be found in provisions governing specific types of contractual relationships, e.g., in the Swiss Product Liability Act (PrHG).

[29] Namely, if the party excluding liability was in the other party’s service at the time the waiver was made or the liability arises in connection with commercial activities conducted under an official licence. See Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 100(2).

[30] Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts. See also Swiss Unfair Competition Act (UWG), Article 8.

[31] Novak & Co v. New York City Housing Authority, 480 N.Y.S.2d 403 (N.Y. App. Term. 1984). See also California Civil Code, Section 1668 (‘All contracts which have for their object, directly or indirectly, to exempt any one from responsibility for his own fraud, or willful injury to the person or property of another, or violation of law, whether wilful or negligent, are against the policy of the law’).

[32] Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA), Section 11.

[33] See, e.g., Schwenzer, Beschränkung und Modifikation der vertraglichen Haftung, 121–22, in Koller, Haftung aus Vertrag (1998).

[34] For clauses limiting the liability in general under Swiss law, see Buol, Beschränkung der Vertragshaftung durch Vereinbarung, para. 230 (1996).

[35] In Switzerland, a contractual limitation of damages is generally considered to also exclude tort damages. See, e.g., Schwenzer, Beschränkung und Modifikation der vertraglichen Haftung, 124, in Koller, Haftung aus Vertrag (1998); decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, BGE 120 II 58, at cons. 3.

[36] For clauses limiting the liability in general under Swiss law, see Buol, Beschränkung der Vertragshaftung durch Vereinbarung, para. 232 (1996).

[37] Black’s Law Dictionary, 490 (11th ed. 2019).

[38] Clydebank Engineering and Shipbuilding Co v. Don Jose Ramos Yzquierdo y Castaneda [1905] AC 6. See also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 26-190 (34th ed. 2021).

[39] Black’s Law Dictionary, 1368 (11th ed. 2019). See also the decision of the High Court of Australia, Legione v. Hateley [1983] HCA 11, at 32 (‘A penalty, as its name suggests, is in the nature of a punishment for non-observance of a contractual stipulation; it consists of the imposition of an additional or different liability upon breach of the contractual stipulation’).

[40] See, e.g., for New York law, Vernitron Corp v. CF 48 Associates, 478 N.Y.S.2d 933, 934 (N.Y. App. Div. 1984). See also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 26-190 (34th ed. 2021).

[41] Atiyah, Promises, Morals, and Law, 57–58 (1981).

[42] Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co Ltd v. New Garage & Motors Co Ltd [1914] A.C. 86.

[43] See the test laid down by Lord Dundelin in Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co Ltd v. New Garage & Motors Co Ltd [1914] A.C. 79; see also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 26-198 and 26-199 (34th ed. 2021).

[44] Cavendish Square Holding BV v. Talal El Makdessi [2015] UKSC 67; see also Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 26-190 and 26-213 (34th ed. 2021).

[45] Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 160(1). When the penalty is for failure to comply with the stipulated time or place of performance, the creditor may claim the penalty in addition to performance provided he has not expressly waived that right or accepted performance without reservation (Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 160(2)).

[46] Decision of the Federal Supreme Court, BGE 109 II 462, at cons. 4a. See also Austrian Civil Code [ABGB], Section 1336; German Civil Code, Section 340 et seq.

[47] Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 161(1).

[48] ibid., at Article 163(1).

[49] id.; ABGB, Section 1336(2); German Civil Code, Section 343.

[50] Ailsa Craig Fishing Co Ltd v. Malvern Fishing Co Ltd [1983] S.L.T. 377, at 380.

[51] ibid., at 382.

[52] Whitecap Leisure Ltd v. John H Rundle Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 429.

[53] McKendrick, Contract Law: Text, Cases and Material, 445 (9th ed. 2020).

[54] id.

[55] Decision of the Federal Supreme Court, 4A_460/2013, at cons. 3.1 et seq.

[56] e.g., German law, decision of the German Bundesgerichtshof, BGH VIII ZR 155/99, in NJW, 2001, 292, at 295 et seq.

[57] UCTA, Section 2(1).

[58] There is no statutory prohibition, but scholars consider that such clauses are immoral, and thus invalid, pursuant to Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 20. cf. Kessler, Article 41 N 2, in Basler Kommentar: Obligationenrecht I (7th ed. 2020).

[59] e.g., under New York law, consequential damages may be limited or excluded in commercial contracts, unless the limitation or exclusion is unconscionable, Corinno Civetta Construction Corp v. City of New York, 502 N.Y.S.2d 681 (N.Y. 1986).

[60] Black’s Law Dictionary, 489 (11th ed. 2019).

[61] [1997] 87 BLR 42; [1997] CLC 622.

[62] [1999] 1 Lloyds Rep 387.

[63] [1854] 9 Ex. 341.

[64] e.g., Jewson Ltd v. Kelly [2002] EWCA Civ 1030.

[65] See, e.g., Scottish Power UK Plc v. BP Exploration Operating Co Ltd [2015] EWHC 2658 (Comm) (‘this unnatural interpretation of the term consequential loss is to be deprecated’); Transocean Drilling UK Ltd v. Providence Resources Plc [2016] EWHC 2611 (Comm) (‘It is questionable whether some of those cases would be decided in the same way today, when courts are more willing to recognise that words take their meaning from their particular context and that the same word or phrase may mean different things in different documents’).

[66] [2016] EWHC 2941 (Comm).

[67] See the so-called ‘parrot case’ of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, BGE 133 III 257.

[68] Huguenin, Obligationenrecht – Allgemeiner und Besonderer Teil, para. 2677 (3rd ed. 2019).

[69] Oetker, Section 249, N 99 in MünchKomm BGB (9th ed. 2022).

[70] Kuoni, Haftungsbegrenzung im schweizerischen deutschen und englischen Recht, para. 305 (2015).

[71] Decision of the German Bundesgerichtshof, BGH X ZR 211/98, in NJW-RR 2001, 324, at 343.

[72] e.g., for English law, Chitty on Contracts, Volume 1, 15-003 (34th ed. 2021). Under Swiss law, the general statutory time limitation of 10 years cannot be shortened – see Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 129.

[73] Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 97(1).

[74] Lawson, Exclusion Clauses and Unfair Contract Terms, 2-063 (12th ed. 2017).

[75] See, e.g., Adler v. Dickson [1955] 3 All E.R. 397.

[76] [1962] 1 All E.R. 1 at 10.

[77] Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 101(2). If the obligee is in the obligor’s service or if the liability arises in connection with commercial activities conducted under an official licence, any exclusion of liability by agreement may apply at most to minor negligence (Swiss Code of Obligations, Article 101(3)). See also German Civil Code, Section 278.

[78] Weber, Berner Kommentar, Article 101, N 167 (2000); Widmer Lüchinger/Wiegand, Article 101, N 16, in Basler Kommentar: Obligationenrecht I (7th ed. 2020). See also Schwenzer, Beschränkung und Modifikation der vertraglichen Haftung, 125–26, in Koller, Haftung aus Vertrag (1998).

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