A Himalaya clause is a contractual provision expressed to be for the benefit of a third party who is not a party to the contract. Although theoretically applicable to any form of contract, most of the jurisprudence relating to Himalaya clauses relate to marine matters, and exclusion clauses in bills of lading for the benefit of stevedores in particular.
Origin of the term
The clause takes its name from a decision of the English Court of Appeal in the case of Adler v Dickson (The Himalaya)  2 Lloyd's Rep 267,  1 QB 158 . The claimant was a passenger on the S.S. Himalaya who had been injured when a gangway fell, throwing her onto the quayside below. The passenger ticket contained a non-responsibility clause exempting the carrier, so the claimant sued the master of the ship and the boatswain. The claimant argued that under the normal rules of privity of contract the defendants could not rely on the terms of a contract that they were not party to. However, the Court of Appeal declared that in the carriage of passengers as well as in the carriage of goods the law permitted a carrier to stipulate not only for himself, but also for those whom he engaged to carry out the contract. It was held as well that the stipulation might be express or implied. Ironically, on the facts before the court, it was held that the passenger ticket did not expressly or by implication benefit servants or agents and thus the defendants could not take advantage of the exception clause. However, after the decision, specially drafted Himalaya clauses benefiting stevedores and others began to be included in bills of lading.
Although the decision in The Himalaya is clear and unambiguous, the reasoning underpinning the case is still the subject of some debate. The courts at various times have suggested that the exception to the common law rules of privity of contract may be founded upon "public policy" reasoning, the law of agency, trust arrangements or (with respect to goods) by the law of bailment rather than the law of contracts.
Developments since Adler v Dickson
The following cases reveal how English law has developed:
- Scruttons v Midland Silicones  AC 446: The House of Lords applied the Privity Rule to prevent a negligent stevedore from relying on a limitation clause in the bill of lading.
- N.Z. Shipping v Satterthwaite (The Eurymedon)  AC 154: The Privy Council found that enough had been done to allow a negligent stevedore to rely on such a limitation clause.
- Port Jackson Stevedoring v Salmond, The New York Star  3 All ER 257 PC developed the law further.
- Houtimport v Agrosin, The Starsin  1 Lloyds rep 571 also developed the law further.
Note that the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 (which amends the Doctrine of Privity) does NOT apply to contracts for the carriage of goods by sea.
The United States
The decision of the English courts has been generally accepted and adopted throughout the Commonwealth. In the United States, which has always had a more circumspect view of the rules of privity of contract, has generally been accommodating to exceptions to the principle, and the decision in Herd v Krawill 359 US 297 , Lloyd’s Rep 305, is generally taken to uphold them provided (as in other legal systems) certain criteria are ahered to.
- "It is hereby expressly agreed that no servant or agent of the carrier (including every independent contractor from time to time employed by the carrier) shall in any circumstances whatsoever be under any liability whatsoever to the shipper, consignee or owner of the goods or to any holder of this Bill of Lading for any loss, damage or delay of whatsoever kind arising or resulting directly or indirectly from any act, neglect or default on his part while acting in the course of or in connection with his employment and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions of this clause, every exemption, limitation, condition and liberty herein contained and every right, exemption from liability, defense and immunity of whatsoever nature applicable to the carrier or to which the carrier is entitled hereunder shall also be available and shall extend to protect every such servant or agent of the carrier acting as aforesaid and for the purpose of all the foregoing provisions of this clause the carrier is or shall be deemed to be acting as agent or trustee on behalf of and for the benefit of all persons who are or might be his servants or agents from time to time (including independent contractors as aforesaid) and all such persons shall to this extent be or be deemed to be parties to the contract in or evidenced by this Bill of Lading."
- The decision itself has been partly superseded by legislation in the United Kingdom on two fronts. Under s.2(1) of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, it is now no longer possible to limit liability for personal injury or death caused by negligence, and under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 contracts can confer benefits upon persons not party to the contract, in a wider form than under the judicial decision. Although contracts for carriage of goods by sea are excluded from the operation of the Act in order to avoid conflict with the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992, the Act does apply to giving a third party the benefit of an exclusion or limitation clause in the contract.
- Eisen und Metall AG v Ceres Stevedoring Co Ltd and Canadian Overseas Shipping Ltd (The Cleveland)  1 Lloyd's Rep 665