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The Command Economy of 1952

Most right-thinking lawyers are Social Democrats.  Mary Robinson declared herself to be such. Such lawyers find themselves thinking about the social purposes of law and reject the radicalism of individualism.

A Social Democrat will favour consumer protection; an individualist will not. To be radical rather than redundant, without explaining what you are radical about, is to be an anarchist and an anarchist thinks little about consumer rights. Even when you do explain what you are radical about you may reveal that, indeed, you are an anarchist.

The title of this post is a phrase from one of our opponents in a law suit. It was his gloss on interpretation of an Irish statute of 1952. We never knew, until he claimed it, that Ireland had a command economy in 1952 and still do not. (We are less certain about the economy of 2011).

These thoughts are prompted by the case of Noreside Construction Ltd. v Irish Ashphalt Ltd. [2011] IEHC

Here, the Plaintiff was constructing houses in Dublin on contract to the Local Authority. The Defendant supplied aggregate for use in the foundations. The Defendant failed to alert the Plaintiff that the aggregate contained pyrites. Pyrites are not suitable for house foundations; they cause upheaval and destroy the integrity of the construction.

The Defendant contended that its terms and conditions, as printed on its delivery dockets, were effective in excluding liability for consequential loss and limited any claims to the cost of replacing the aggregate itself.

The court found that the Defendant was wrong in thinking that its terms and conditions formed part of the contract; they did not. Furthermore, the contract contained an implied term of the merchantability of the product. (Student lawyers hear a lot about merchantability; practising lawyers less so).

To buy a house is the most significant purchase most people will make. It is the ultimate consumer purchase. That the consumer’s rights and remedies might in some way be constrained by the outcome of a “battle of the forms” between two commercial entities is not a rational ordering of social affairs. (It might require deployment of all the resources of both the Plaintiff and the Defendant in Noreside Construction Ltd. v Irish Ashphalt Ltd. to pay for the  presumed loss to the purchasers of the houses).