Murray v Budd: Addis v Gramaphone Co Ltd [1909] AC 488 remains the law in Ireland.

Here, the Supreme Court refused Murray’s request that it overrule the authority of Addis v Gramaphone Co Ltd [1909] AC 488 or find a new exception to the rule from that case. Addis set down the rule that compensation is not recoverable for breach of contract leading to non-financial loss. Since then, the courts have recognised certain exceptions to that rule: where the object of a contract is to provide pleasure, relaxation, peace of mind or freedom from molestation.



In 1999, Murray was standing accused of possession with intent to supply a large quantity of heroin. Budd was appointed as Murray’s solicitor under the free legal aid scheme. Over a week before Murray’s trial the counsel appointed by Budd notified Budd that they would not be available on the trial date. However Budd did not instruct alternative counsel until the night before the trial. Naas Circuit Criminal Court convicted Murray and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment.

In 2005, within six years of the trial date, Murray commenced proceedings against Budd seeking compensation for his worry and stress during the week prior to his trial caused by Budd not having counsel in place. The case was the subject to two High Court hearings and an appeal to the Court of Appeal at the preliminary stage, dismissing Murray’s proceedings.

Murray applied to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal. Granting leave to appeal, the Court determined that Murray had raised an issue of general public importance: “whether a claim framed as a professional negligence action seeking damages for negligence and breach of contract in which the particulars of loss and damage claimed are worry and stress short of a recognised physical injury should be treated as a personal injury action subject to the statutory limitation period applicable to personal injury actions”.


Supreme Court

Chief Justice Denham wrote the judgment for the seven judge panel dismissing Murray’s appeal. The Court examined the three possible actions under which Murray’s case could proceed: (1) personal injury, (2) tort and (3) professional negligence in breach of contract.

(1) Denham CJ held that any action for person injury is statute barred.

(2) Denham cited with approval the High Court decision in Walter v Crossan [2014] IEHC 377, where Hogan J thoroughly reviewed the law and concluded that damages are not recoverable in tort for worry and stress not giving rise to a psychiatric illness.

And (3), Denham stated that Murray was represented at trial by competent counsel and there was no breach of professional standards. The nature of the contract was not one under which damages for distress would be available under the exceptions from Addis. (The case was further complicated by the fact that there was no direct contract between Murray and Budd). And there were no circumstances in the case which warranted the Court to consider additional exceptions to Addis.

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