Sir John Madejski in legal battle to win back number plate10/03/2014 20:51
Business tycoon and Reading FC chairman Sir John Madejski is fighting the latest bout in a marathon legal battle over a personalised car registration worth £50,000.
Sir John saw his “JM 2” registration unwittingly transferred to Malcolm Harrison after selling him a Jaguar XJ220 – to which it was then legally attached – for £130,000 at auction in late 2010.
The multi-millionaire entrepreneur said the “cherished mark”, one of several connected to his collection of premium cars, was never part of the deal and launched legal action against Mr Harrison.
Judge Donald Hamilton agreed with him at Reading County Court in November last year, and ordered Mr Harrison to pay Sir John more than £31,000, plus heavy legal costs.
However, Mr Harrison has now launched a challenge to that decision at London’s Civil Appeal Court, claiming the judge was wrong to find that “no reasonable buyer” would have thought that the registration number was included in the price.
The swanky supercar was bought on Mr Harrison’s behalf by his son, Jack, for the six-figure sum at an auction run by Coys of Kensington Ltd, in December 2010, Sir John’s counsel, Matthew Cook, told the court.
He said the car, which had been off the road for some time, appeared both in an auction brochure and in the showroom without number plates and there was no mention of the personalised JM 2 mark being included when it went under the hammer.
However, Sir John “failed to carry out the steps required to retain the mark” and it was mistakenly transferred to Mr Harrison when he bought the luxury two-seater, the barrister explained.
Valued at £50,000, Sir John balked at inadvertently losing the number plate and launched claims against the buyer and Coys, although the auction firm was cleared of responsibility for what happened.
Mr Harrison insisted he would only have paid £100,000 for the car, which had no MoT, and that he shelled out £30,000 extra in the belief it would also secure him the registration number.
But Judge Hamilton found that his son had been “carried away by the excitement of the prospect of having this exotic car in the family” when he made the winning bid.
He said this had “blinded” Jack Harrison to what “should have been obvious to him” – that the registration number was not included in the price.
Judge Hamilton ruled: “On the information provided by Coys, no reasonable buyer could have come to the conclusion that the mark was included in the sale.”
On appeal, Mr Harrison’s lawyer, David Lewis, argued that he understood the contract of sale to include both the car and the registration number and that the judge had erred in finding otherwise.
Mr Lewis added: “Anybody buying a car, buys the licence plate with it.
“There is no separate contract of sale.
“Buy any car and the mark comes with it.”
The barrister also argued that the award to Sir John was over the top and that the judge erred in ordering Mr Harrison to pay 80 per cent of Sir John’s hefty legal costs bill as well as a portion of the costs incurred by Coys.
Sir Terence Etherton, sitting in the Appeal Court with Lady Justice Rafferty and Lord Justice Kitchin, reserved the court’s decision on the case until a later date.