The case concerned the question whether a contract could be implied between the transferee of a bill of lading to whom the goods had been delivered and the carrier. Prior to the Carriage of Goods By Sea Act 1992 the implication of such a contract was necessary if the transferee and the carrier were to have rights enforceable between themselves in respect of, for example, damage to the goods or the payment of freight.
Bingham LJ considered the authorities at some length to see how the implication of contracts in this field had grown and developed. He cited with approval from the judgment of May LJ in The Elli which said,
As the question whether or not any such contract is to be implied is one of fact, its answer must depend upon the circumstances of each particular case - and the different sets of facts which arise for consideration in these cases are legion. However, I also agree that no such contract should be implied on the facts of any given case unless it is necessary to do so: necessary, that is to say, in order to give business reality to a transaction and to create enforceable obligations between parties who are dealing with one another in circumstances in which one would expect that business reality and those enforceable obligations to exist.
Bingham LJ then continued himself to say,
whether a contract is to be implied is a question of fact and that a contract will only be implied where it is necessary to do so… it would, in my view, be contrary to principle to countenance the implication of a contract from conduct if the conduct relied upon is no more consistent with an intention to contract than with an intention not to contract. It must, surely, be necessary to identify conduct referable to the contract contended for or, at the very least, conduct inconsistent with there being no contract made between the parties. Put another way, I think it must be fatal to the implication of a contract if the parties would or might have acted exactly as they did in the absence of a contract.