High Court case analyzes damages for trespass in Chedington Events Limited v Nihal Mohammed Kamal Brake & Anor [2023]

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2804 (Ch)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the High Court of Justice case of Chedington Events Limited v Nihal Mohammed Kamal Brake & Anor [2023], various legal principles were analyzed, particularly focusing on the quantum of damages concerning a case of trespass. His Honour Judge Paul Matthews presided over the matter, examining the intricacies surrounding compensation for the wrongful occupation of property, the valuation of such occupation, and the legal consequences of such actions.

Key Facts

Chedington Events Limited (the claimant) sought possession of certain properties alongside damages for trespass from the defendants, who wrongfully occupied the claimant’s land, including a house and an arena. The defendants contested the quantum of damages, arguing potential mitigation if a nearby cottage had been made available to them. The court previously determined the defendants’ liability; this proceeding addressed the quantum of damages due to the claimant, assessing the ordinary letting value of the trespassed properties, and considering whether the defendants would have moved to the cottage, thus ceasing the trespassing, had it been made available to them.

Mesne Profits

Mesne profits constitute the core of the claim, representing the compensation equivalent to the ordinary letting value of the property, measurable even without the proof of actual loss of reletting by the claimant. The user principle elucidated in previous cases like Inverugie Investments Ltd v Hackett [1995] acknowledges that a wrongdoer should compensate for the objective value of the wrongful use. The court emphasized that the loss measure aligns with prior jurisprudence, notably in Morris-Garner v One Step (Support) Ltd [2019], which clarified the classification of ‘negotiating damages’ outright for breach of contract cases and only applied the concept of ‘user damages’ within property disputes.

Causation of Loss

The legal principle of causation necessitates that the losses claimed by the claimant must have been directly caused by the defendants’ actions. The court found against the defendants’ argument echoing the foundational principle that subsidiaries cannot be held liable for the parent company’s actions, based on the distinct legal personality established in Salomon v Salomon & Co Ltd [1897] and its progeny.

Interest on Damages

The court referred to section 35A of the Senior Courts Act 1981 in awarding interest on damages from the date of the cause of action to the judgment date and thereafter. Following the legal principle that interest is to compensate the claimant for the time out of the money, a standard rate was set, suggesting equitable recompense for the loss of use of funds.

Outcomes

The court determined that the claimant was entitled to £236,818.27 in damages for trespass, which was the calculated letting value of the properties occupied by the defendants. Interest was awarded at 3% per annum from the dates the cause of action arose to the date prior to judgment, and 8% per annum from that date until the judgment was satisfied, in line with statutory guidelines. The defense that the defendants would have vacated had the cottage been available was dismissed, with the judge finding no factual basis supporting a genuine intent by the defendants to vacate the premise, even if it had been made available.

Conclusion

In Chedington Events Limited v Nihal Mohammed Kamal Brake & Anor, the court reaffirmed and applied established legal principles to assess damages in a case of wrongful occupation of property. It upheld the doctrine that entities owe reparations for the objective value derived from trespass and those damages can include interest to recompense for time-value loss. The decision underscores the fundamental legal tenet of the distinct corporate personality and maintains that damages for trespass to land are compensation based on established property law principles. The defendants’ contention for a mitigated quantum of damages based on hypothetical alternatives was rigorously scrutinized and ultimately rejected, underscoring the court’s expectation for demonstrable, not speculative, mitigating actions.

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