Watteau v Fenwick (1893)
- A pub owner named Humble appeared to own and manage a pub
- Humble in fact acted for an undisclosed principal, when he ordered cigarettes from the claimant, and failed to pay for them
- Humble was not authorised to purchase cigarettes by virtue of his actual authority
- Apparent authority and undisclosed principals are incompatible
- Was the undisclosed principal liable to the cigarette vendor?
- Purchasing cigarettes was within the range of acts usually carried out by a landlord, therefore the defendants were bound
- Opinion: this case undermines the doctrine of apparent authority, as there is no apparent possible source for the representation: at the time of the purchase of cigarettes, the principal did not exist and so obligations could not be conferred thereon; it is either plainly wrong, or there is an alternate justification for apparent authority which has not since been mentioned in litigation
- Tettenborn’s justification circumvents agency law altogether:
[The agent] and the owner of the Victoria Hotel (whoever that might be) were one and the same person [and the same legal entity]
(Cambridge Law Journal 1998, Page 274)
Posted in Commercial Law Revision Notes.
This page was last updated on 13th January 2015