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Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co

[1893] 1 QB 256

Case summary last updated at 03/01/2020 13:44 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co

D advertised his product saying that if one used it and still caught “the current epidemic of” influenza, he would give you £100 and to show his sincerity in the matter £1000 had been put in a bank account for this purpose. P caught influenza and sued D for the £100. CA held that the advertisement WAS an offer and D had to pay. D tried to argue that the offer was too vague to be valid, in that it had no addressee and was not seriously intended as nobody would make an offer of this kind to the whole world. Finally it couldn’t  be taken seriously because the offer had no time limit, which would make no sense from D’s perspective. 
 
Bowen LJ: we have to ask “how would an ordinary person, reading this document, construe it?” His answer is to take it at face value. He says that the offer was limited either to the duration of the “epidemic” or to the period of 
 usage of the product. The advertisement was not a mere “puff” or “proclamation” because it was intended to be perceived by the public as an offer to be relied on (i.e. more people would buy the product having seen the advert). This shows that an intent to create legal relations is needed. Because of the specific nature of the advertisement, it is to be treated as an offer (to all the world) and NOT mere invitation to treat, as most adverts are. It is the law that an offeror can, explicitly or impliedly, dispense with the requirement to be notified of acceptance (even though such notification is usually required) e.g. cases of rewards for finding lost pets. In this case, the advert impliedly dispensed with notification. There WAS consideration because D got a sale in return for the offer.Is this true- what if P would have bought the ball regardless of the offer? 

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