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Dickinson v Dodds

[1876] 2 CH D 463

Case summary last updated at 03/01/2020 15:04 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Dickinson v Dodds

D sent a note to P offering to sell him property with a note saying that the offer was to be “held over” until 9.00am on a specified date. Before this date, D sold the property to a different party and P learnt of this. P tried to accept the offer before the specified date but this was denied by D since he had already sold the property to another. CA held that D was entitled to sell the property to another person. 
 
James LJ: the offer to sell was a mere offer and cannot be said to have been binding since P gave no consideration to make this binding. Until acceptance, he was free to withdraw the offer: this withdrawal need not be explicit, provided the other man understands that the seller is “no longer minded to sell” the thing to him. This was the case here. There has to be a meeting of the minds at the moment of acceptance, which didn’t happen here. 
 
Mellish LJ: an offer can be withdrawn any time before acceptance as this is practical for business: it allows people to sell and not to be restricted, which would be the case if offers were binding. 
 
The principle established here that an offer is not binding on the offeror is practical for business since people aren’t restricted from pursuing better/quicker deals and is an incentive to the offeree not to delay. To make an offer binding would be to impose an obligation on the offeror without him getting anything in return (hence the consideration argument of James LJ). 

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