The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bird v Jones (1845) 115 ER 668

What's the case about?
A section of footpath on Hammersmith Bridge was fenced off in order to provide a viewing area for a regatta.  Mr Bird tried to enter the fenced area, but Mr Jones, the clerk of the bridge company, told him could only do so if he paid a fee.  Mr Bird refused to pay, entering instead by climbing over the fence.  Once over the fence, his way was blocked by two policemen, who had been hired by Mr Jones.  Mr Bird brought a claim against Mr Jones for false imprisonment.

Where is it on the map?
At point O.

Who won?
Mr Jones.  All the justices (except Denman CJ) agreed that blocking a person's way, whilst they were still able to travel in another direction, was not sufficient in itself to amount to false imprisonment.

What's the principle of law?
This remains an important case for understanding the tort of false imprisonment. Williams J stated that false imprisonment had to involve the 'total restraint of the liberty of the person, for however short a time' rather than simply 'a partial obstruction of his will, whatever inconvenience it may bring on him.'  

What's it like today?
Hammersmith Bridge today is not the bridge that Mr Bird and Mr Jones walked on.  That bridge opened in 1827 but had a number of structural problems and was replaced by the current structure in 1887. 

Interestingly, the first bridge was built by George, William and Stephen Bird, a West London firm of builders.  There is a memorial to the Bird family at the site of their former home on Shepherds Bush Road.  To see a photo of the plaque, and read the inscription, take a look at the excellent Plaques of London website.

The replacement bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and, like its predecessor has also been plagued by weaknesses.  It was closed to traffic for much of the 1990s but is currently open, albeit with a weight restriction in place.

Hammersmith Bridge has one more Bird connection: at the entrance to the bridge a notice of the bridge by-laws is attributed to one James Bird, Deputy Clerk of the London County Council.  The notice is dated 1914 and is not unique to Hammersmith Bridge - but it is not inconceivable that James Bird the Deputy Clerk of the Council was a relative of the Birds that built the bridge, or even the Mr Bird who fell out with the clerk of the bridge company, Mr Jones.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Williams v Roffey Bros & Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd [1991] 1 Q.B. 1

What's the case about?
Roffey Bros & Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd had a contract with Shepherd's Bush Housing Association to refurbish Twynholm Mansions, a block of flats in Fulham.  A clause in the contract provided that Roffey would have to pay a penalty to the Housing Association if the work was not completed on time.   

Roffey engaged Mr Williams to do some carpentry inside the flats.  The agreed price for the job was £20,000.  It soon became clear that Mr Williams had bid far too low and would not be able to complete the job for £20,000.  In order to keep the work on schedule (and so avoid paying a penalty to the Housing Association), Roffey agreed that they would pay Mr Williams an extra £575 per flat completed.  Williams completed eight more flats, but Roffey only paid him an extra £1500.  Williams quit the site and sued Roffey, arguing that they had breached the agreement to pay extra for his work.

Where is it on the map?
At point Q.

Who won?
Mr Williams.  The Court of Appeal agreed that he was entitled to be paid extra for the work, as per his agreement with Roffey Bros.

What's the principle of law?
This case is important for understanding the doctrine of consideration and how a contract can validly be varied.  A contract cannot validly be varied without one party giving something in exchange for that variation.  In Pinnel's Case (1602) 5 Co Rep 117a, Lord Coke stated that an agreement to waive part of a debt could only be enforceable if the debtor gave something for it (Sir Edward Coke suggested 'a horse, hawk or a robe', but other things would doubtless suffice). 

In the present case, Roffey Bros argued that the agreement to pay Williams more was unenforceable because they were not getting any extra consideration from Williams in exchange.  The Court of Appeal disagreed.  Lord Justice Glidewell held that the extra benefit Roffey enjoyed from Williams performing the contract on time (or alternatively the disbenefit that Roffey avoided by not having to pay a penalty to the Housing Association) was sufficient consideration for the variation to be enforceable.

What’s it like today?
Twynholm Mansions are solid-looking redbrick mansion block on the edge of Lillie Road Recreation Ground in Fulham.  

The flats are still owned by Shepherd’s Bush Housing Association and were refurbished again in 2010.