Website disclaimers

Image of swimming pool, via SPATA websiteFollowing on from my comments about email disclaimers, via TJ and here and here, I learn of the decision of the Court of Appeal in England and Wales in Patchett v Swimming Pool & Allied Trades Association Ltd [2009] EWCA Civ 717 (15 July 2009) on the efficacy of website disclaimers. The plaintiffs asserted that they had suffered financial loss by relying on a mistaken statement on the defendants’ website, and the defendants countered that that clause on the site which urged visitors to the site to make further enquiries effectively disclaimed liability. In the Court of Appeal, Lord Clarke MR for the majority (Scott Baker LJ concurring, Smith LJ dissenting) held, at pargarph 39:

… I do not think that it can fairly be held that [the defendants] assumed a legal responsibility to the [plaintiffs] for the accuracy of the statements in the website without the further enquiry which the website itself urged.

And, in the next paragraph, he concluded:

When application was being made for permission to appeal it was suggested that special considerations apply to representations on websites. I do not think that the mere fact that the representations were contained on a website supports the conclusion that a duty of care is owed. As ever, all depends on the circumstances. Some websites are interactive and it may be possible, applying the principles outlined above, to conclude in particular circumstances that a duty is owed. However, I agree with the judge that that is not the case here.

So, website disclaimers can be effective in principle, but – as ever with the law – whether they are in any given situation will turn on the facts of the case. I supposed I’d better see to a disclaimer for this site then.