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Report No. 63

5.11. Meaning of 'sum certain'.-

As to the expression 'sum certain' used in the main paragraph of section 1, there seems to be considerable uncertainty about its exact scope. English cases on the corresponding statute of 1833 (now repealed) lay' down that it is immaterial how the sum becomes certain, the sum being certain when ascertained under the written instrument.1 However, this expression does not seem to cover a case where the sum i liable to subsequent adjustment; it must be a certain sum which is due absolutely and in all events from one party to the other, though it may not come strictly within the expression 'debt'.2

We are of the view that these words are unnecessary. All that is covered by the expression "sum certain" would be covered by "debt" as it is understood at the present day. Moreover, since we are recommending the addition of a provision for interest on damages, these words would create confusion. As the same time, "debt" does not include an unascertained sum, and that could be brought out.

1. (a) Cooke v. Ross, 44 LJ CP 315;

(b) Hill v. South Stafforehire Railway, LR 18 Eq 154.

(c) Ward v. Eyre, 49 Lj Ch 659 (Jessel, M.R.)

2. London, Chatham & Dover Railway v. South Eastern Railway, 1893 AC 429 (HL).

Interest Act, 1839 Back

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