Hannah vs Tom

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The paper seeks to advice Hannah through identifying the area of law and the legal issues. 

Case scenario

Hannah needed some new wine glasses for her party and saw an advert in local newspaper. Tom had placed an advertisement in the local newspaper on a set of 24 wines glasses.  The advert was placed in the local newspaper by tom.  Later on that day Hannah called Tom expressing her interest in buying the glasses and whether they were sturdy. Toe replied that they were sturdy. Hannah expressed her interest and asked whether Tom will accept 55. Tom responds he will think about it and took Hannah email address. Tom wrote to Hannah indicating the best price with the location of his office. Hannah while making a reply lost power as a result of bad weather.  She wrote a letter to Tom agreeing to the 60 but due to the postal strike the letter was delivered on Thursday after tom has already sold to Seth.

1. The legal issues to be determined are whether Tom was in breach of contract with Hannah

2. Whether there was legal obligation for tom to accept the offer by Hannah

In the case of partridge vs Crittenden (1968) 2 ALL 421[1] was a legal issue with regards to contractual relationship raised in the case. The facts of the case were that there was a closed ringed specimen where the advertisement where it was classified and was not considered an offer but an invitation to make a legal relationship and the appellant was not guilty of the offence charged. The advert on the newspaper would have been a crime had it breached the protection laws.  The indication that tom was not making an offer and that it was just an invitation to treat was the lack of the words offer for sale.  From the case provided, Tom provided an advertisement.  In the case of Fisher vs Bell[2], where the question was whether the knife on the shelf with the price tag on, it constituted an offer for sale.

An offer is defined as a proposal made to another with an indication to enter into a legal binding agreement. Legally speaking, the contracts are enforced by courts as long as all the elements of contract are fulfilled.  An invitation to treat is an indication of willingness to enter into a negotiation but they are yet to be bound by the terms. Interrogating the statement made by Hannah to Tom was not to be treated as acceptance of an offer rather an invitation to treat.  When Hannah inquired of the glasses whether they were sturdy it was clear she was negotiating about the goods.

An invitation to treat is not an offer. An offer is made when the person making it is ready to take the full consequences of it being accepted.  A response to an invitation to treat can result to a binding agreement. From the case scenario provided, the advertisement was an invitation to treat and he provided the price in the magazine. The response given to him by Hannah was a negotiation to the invite that was provided.  When the court is making a decision on whether the parties had made the offer, it does so by objectively interrogating the intention of both parties.  Advertisement can amount to offer or invitation. Where the advertisement is an offer the person who accepts makes the contract. However, in the Tom advert there was negotiation involved.

In the condition on offer, the case of Carlill vs Carbolic smoke ball co ltd (1893)[3] the manufacturer of carbolic smoke ball indicated that the smoke can prevent a person from contracting influenza. They made this by an advertisement offering to pay 100 to any person who followed the instruction in smoking. The defendant in honouring their claim had deposited 1000 to be able to make good any claim form anyone who tried the smoke. The plaintiff used one of the smoke balls as instructed but caught influenza. She claimed the payment of the 100 which the company refuses. The carbolic company made an argument that the advertisement was incapable of making any contract with the world. The court made a finding that the advertisement indeed was an offer which was capable of being accepted and that the plaintiff took the offer and made the acceptance hence she is entitled to the amount offered by the company.

An offer is an element that needs to be present in a contract and it precedes an acceptance. The offeror is the one with the authority to complete the contract. In the case of Hannah, she had made that decision but the declaration did not get to Tom.  An invite to treat is the process that leads to an offer.  The advert put up in the newspaper was for 65 and Hannah made an offer which Tom did negotiate. In the case of crawler v R[4]

1909 the court made a determination that where a person makes an advertisement at a particular price, the person makes an offer to the member of the public.  As provided in fisher v bell [5] it was held that goods that are on display with price tags is an invitation to treat and an invitation to any member to make an offer by presenting the goods on the counter. The court made a determination that when a party presents the good to the cashier to present the price that is when the offer is made and subsequently, accepted. The display of the goods was an invitation as lord parker stated that it is clear according to law of contract, the display of an item with a price tag in a shop window is an invitation to treat.

Advertisements are considered invitation to treat on the account that they may lead to further bargaining and this was the case in the scenario provided.  Hannah negotiated the price and expressed her desire for potential future negotiation by exchanging emails.  Quotation of the price was to invite potential buyers to make offers to buy the glasses.  The offer made was not in accordance to the price advertised. This was clear that Hannah was negotiating.

It is clear that the main object of an offer is to enter into an agreement while an invitation was to negotiate the term of the contract to be made.  In the case of Adams v Lindsell (1818) 1 B[6]

the court made a determination on the exact moment a contract formation.  The facts were that D wrote to P offering to sell some wool and asked for a reply in course of post. The offer was delayed and consequently P’s acceptance was late. On the day before it arrived D sold the wool. The court said P was entitled to damages and that his acceptance was complete when the letter was posted. There was an issue on where the acceptance was via a post.  In an ordinary usage, the post is a means of communicating. The acceptance is considered at the point of posting. The uncertainty does not ordinarily happen in face to face communication.  The postal rule seems to justify the time when parties arrive at a consensus and that it is at the time of posting.

However, considering that the case scenario involved an invitation to treat the offer had not been made therefore the offer had not been placed before for purposes of acceptance form Tom.  Additionally, Tom did not provided the course via a post so that Hannah cannot therefore rely on the post as a mode of operation. In the case of Accident insurance company v Grant[7], Thesiger LJ suggested agency as a basis on how the law can be reconciled with the formation of contract through post. It is argued that a letter posted contain letter with content sealed and cannot be said to have been communicated. Delivery of a letter by post can not in its own complete a contract.  A delay in sending or receiving the letter creates an uncertainty on when the message is legally considered to have been delivered for consideration. When a court is making a determination of the postal rule the objective is to look at the necessity and predict that the contract was to be achieved.


In making consideration of the case scenario, the letter poster was not necessarily an offer to be considered for acceptance by Tom as the letter was not delivered. Additionally, the invitation to treat was still an active invitation that did not prevent Tom from accepting any other offer from another party who was willing to be bound by the terms.  The circumstance of the case scenario demonstrates no fault on the part of Tom with regard to the contract in question.



Adams vs lindsell {1818} 1B

Accident insurance company vs Grant {1879}

Fisher vs Bell {1961} QB 394

Carlil vs carbolic smoke ball co ltd {1893} EWCA

Crawler v R {1909}

Partridge v Crittenden {1968} 2 ALL ER 421

[1] Partridge v Crittenden {1968} 2 ALL ER 421

[2] Fisher v bell {1961} QB 394

[3] Carlill vs carbolic smoke ball co ltd {1893} EWCA

[4] Crawler v R {1909}

[5] Fisher v bell {1961} QB 394

[6] Adams vs Lindsell {1818} 1B

[7] Accident insurance company v Grant {1879}

December 12, 2023

Business Law Life



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