Krell v Henry – Case Summary

Krell v Henry

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1903] 2 KB 740; 52 WR 246; [1900-3] All ER Rep 20; 89 LT 328; 19 TLR 711.


The defendant contracted with the claimant to use the claimant’s flat on June 26. This was the date when King Edward VII’s coronation procession was supposed to happen. The defendant intended to view the procession from the flat. The written contract did not expressly refer to the coronation procession, but both parties understood that the defendant only wanted the room to view it. The King fell ill, and the procession did not happen as a result.

The claimant sued the defendant for the rest of the fee for the room. The defendant argued that he was not obliged to pay because it was no longer possible to use the room to view the coronation.

  1. Was the defendant obliged to pay the fee under the contract?

The Court of Appeal held that the contract was discharged. The objective circumstances made clear that the parties saw viewing the coronation procession as the foundation of the contract, and this had been rendered impossible. The defendant did not have to pay the fee.

This Case is Authority For…

This case is an early case on the defence of frustration. Where objective evidence shows that the contract’s foundation was some event which is later rendered impossible, the contract is frustrated and discharged. This is the case even if the contract does not expressly refer to that event.


Vaughan Williams LJ noted that the frustrating event discharged both parties from the contract. It would not have been possible for the defendant to insist on using the flat on June 26, for example.