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Contract Law Cases


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What is the definition of an offer ?
The offer is an expression of willingness to contract made with the intention (actual or apparent) that it is to become binding on the person making it as soon as it is accepted by the person to whom it is addressed
A display of goods at a fixed price in a shop window is an invitation to treat, not an offer.
Timothy v Simpson (1834)
A display of goods at a fixed price in a self service store is an invitation to treat, not an offer.
Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd (1953)
A notice at the entrance to an automatic car park may be an offer which can be accepted by driving in.
Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd (1971)
A display of Deck Chairs for hire has been held to be an offer.
Chapelton v Barry UDC (1940)
Auctions - The lot displayed is the invitation to treat. Individual bids are offers, the fall of the auctioneers hammer is acceptance
British Car Auctions v Wright 1972
Goods Displayed in a shop window - are an invitation to treat. The offer is made buy the customer
Fisher v Bell 1961
Auctions Catalogues are a statement of intent not an offer. A lot can be withdrawn without consequences
Harris v Nickerson 1873
Invitations to suppliers to tender for goods or services are an invitation to treat.
Spencer v Harding 1870
Unilateral offers expressed in advertisement are offers and not invitations to treat
Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co 1893
If a request for tenders states that the contract will be given to the highest (or lowest) bidder. Then this is an offer which is accepted by making the highest (or lowest bid)
Harvela Investments Ltd v Royal Trust Co of Canada 1985
A valid offer must be communicated to the offeree. It would be unfair for a person to be bound by an offer they were unaware of.
Taylor v Laird 1856
The offeree must have clear knowledge of the existence of an offer for it to be enforceable.
Inland Revenue Commissioners v Fry 2001
If the offer is made to "The Whole World" it can be accepted by anyone who has genuine notice of it
Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co 1893
The terms of the offer must be certain. Any vague words may invalidate the agreement
Guthing v Lynn 1831
An offer may be withdrawn at any time before the offeree has accepted it.
Routledge v Grant 1828
A bid at an auction is an offer and may be withdrawn at any time before acceptance by the fall of the hammer
Payne v Cave 1789
To be valid the revocation of an offer must be communicated to the offeree
Byrne v Van Tienhoven 1880
A revocation of an offer is valid if communicated to the offeree by a reliable third party
Dickinson v Dodds 1876
A unilateral offer cannot be withdrawn if the offeree is in the act of performing the acceptance.
Errington v Errington and Woods 1952
How may an offer come to an end
1. Acceptance and the formation of a contract.

2. Because the specified time for acceptance has passed.

3. Because a reasonable time has passed causing the offer to lapse.

4. By failure to comply with a condition precedent

5. Because of the death of either party
An offer will lapse after a reasonable period of time. "Reasonable" is a question of fact in each case
Ramsgate Victoria Hotel v Monteforte 1866
An offer will lapse if a condition precedent is not met. e.g. an offer of employment made subjest to satisfactory references or a medical report
Financings v Stimson 1962
The death of the offeror terminates the offer if notified to the offeree. If the offeree accepts without such knowledge a contract may be formed
Bradbury v Morgan 1862
If the offeree dies it is unlikely that the executors or administrators of the estate can accept on their behalf
Reynolds v Atherton 1921
A machine can make an offer which is accepted by using it.
Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking 1971
An offer can be made by conduct. E.g. Sending different goods or a different quantity in reply to an order may be considered an offer to sell the goods tendered
Hart v Mills 1846
Inactivity alone is unlikely to ever constitute an offer
Unisys International Services Ltd v Eastern Counties Newspaper Group 1991
Offers are treated according to the objective test. If a reasonable person would conclude an offer is being made, then it is regardless of the subjective intention fo the offeror
Moran v University College Salford (No 2) 1993
If the offeree knows despit the objective appearance that the offeror does not intend to be bound then the "offer" cannot be accepted.
An offer sent through the post is made where it was posted.
A restaurant menu is an invitation to treat
A pile of deck chairs displayed for hire has been hald to be an offer.
Circulation of a price list is an invitation to treat
Rewards. e.g. for information leading to the capture of a criminal or the return of a lost pet are unilateral offers.
If several people one at a time undertake the act to claim a reward only the first is entitled.
If several people together claim a reward they are entitled to equal shares
An attempt to vary the terms of the offer is a counter offer, which is a rejection of the offer that is no longer open to acceptance
Hyde v Wrench 1840
A rejection of an ancilliary subject may still be a countr offer, although the main terms are accepted
Jones v Daniel 1894
A mere enquiry that does not seek to vary the terms is not a counter offer.
Stevenson v McLean 1880
If arrangements continue after a counter offer is made. Then the terms of the counter offer are included in the contract
Davies & Co v William Old 1969
The courts will not allow a party to benefit from both the counter offer and the original offer
Pars Technology v City Link Transport Holdings Ltd 1999
Past consideration is not good consideration.
Eastwood v Kenyon 1840

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