From: Robert Stevens <>
To: Sarah Green <>
Andrew Tettenborn <>
Date: 26/01/2015 14:36:10 UTC
Subject: RE: bureaucratic bungling

In Spring there were two rights in play. You assume responsibility to take care towards those you agree to write references for (eg students, employees). This right is not subject to the qualified privilege defence that applies to the right to reputation, it seems.

In Sebry, I don't know why a claim for defamation was not run. (Anyone? Is there some kind of statutory privilege or immunity? I can't see one on the face of the Companies Act 2006). I also can't see any real undertaking by the defendant to the claimant on the facts (unlike in Spring).

From: Sarah Green
Sent: 26 January 2015 14:26
To: Robert Stevens; Andrew Tettenborn;
Subject: RE: bureaucratic bungling

“I had thought we had a name for that wrong, and that it isn't "pure economic loss in negligence".”


No, but it’s more limited than a claim for pure economic loss in negligence, and so won’t always function to protect the right.  As we saw in Spring.





From: Robert Stevens []
Sent: 26 January 2015 14:04
To: Andrew Tettenborn;
Subject: RE: bureaucratic bungling


It is here for those interested



I am not as keen on the reasoning as Andrew is.


The gist of the complaint seems to me to be that the defendant has published false information about the claimant, damaging its reputation, so that it suffers consequential loss.


I had thought we had a name for that wrong, and that it isn't "pure economic loss in negligence".



From: Andrew Tettenborn []
Sent: 26 January 2015 13:14
Subject: bureaucratic bungling

A rare (and in my view entirely justified) case of negligence liability for pure economic loss caused by bungling bureaucrats, courtesy of Edis J in the English High Court today.

X Ltd is in difficulties, trying (with some prospects) to turn the corner. The kybosh is put on all its efforts when, suddenly, no supplier will give it any credit and its bank will lend it nothing. Why? A bureaucrat in Companies House, having received a sloppily-prepared notice of liquidation proceedings against a company with a similar (but not identical) name, has broken CH's own internal procedures and misguidedly registered X Ltd as in liquidation. As a result (allegedly) X indeed goes bust. The guiding spirit of X, assignee of X's liquidator, sues CH for negligence.  CH understandably raise a duty of care point.

Edis J decides in favour of a duty at common law (having doubted an alternative plea of BSD). No problems of over-extended liability: any duty is owed to the company alone. And companies are forcibly subjected to the vagaries of CH, not having any alternative remedy against third parties. Good tight reasoning.

See Sebry v Companies House & Anor [2015] EWHC 115 (QB).



Andrew Tettenborn
Professor of Commercial Law, Swansea University

Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law
School of Law, University of Swansea
Richard Price Building
Singleton Park
Phone 01792-602724 / (int) +44-1792-602724
Fax 01792-295855 / (int) +44-1792-295855

Andrew Tettenborn
Athro yn y Gyfraith Fasnachol, Prifysgol Abertawe

Sefydliad y Gyfraith Llongau a Masnach Ryngwladol
Ysgol y Gyfraith, Prifysgol Abertawe
Adeilad Richard Price
Parc Singleton
Ffôn 01792-602724 / (rhyngwladol) +44-1792-602724
Ffacs 01792-295855 / (rhyngwladol) +44-1792-295855


Lawyer (n): One versed in circumvention of the law (Ambrose Bierce)