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Adams v Lindsell [1818] 106 ER 250

Contract Law – Offer and Acceptance

Adams v Lindsell (1818) 106 ER 250 is a key case within the contract law degree module for a Bachelor of Law LLB programme at university. The case concerns offer and acceptance for the formation of a contract. This case lead to the formation of a key principle in contract law called the postal rule.

Facts:

In this case, the defendants wrote a letter to the claimants offering to sell wool, they requested that the claimant reply in the post as a form of acceptance. The offer letter was wrongly addressed and therefore the claimant did not receive the offer until later than originally anticipated. This delay subsequently caused the letter of acceptance from the claimant to arrive to the defendants late. Due to the acceptance arriving late the defendants sold the wool to a third party, believing the original offer to of not been accepted.

Issue:

Had the original offer been accepted in the post by the claimant or was the offer revoked?

Held:

It was decided that the original offer had been accepted as soon as the letter of acceptance was posted, irrelevant of whether or not the defendant had already seen it. This was further confirmed in Brinkibon Ltd v Stahag Stahl [1983] 2 AC 34 by Lord Wilberforce stating “A contract is formed when the acceptance of an offer is communicated by the offeree to the offeror”. This rule is certain when applying to physical mail, but the law surrounding instantaneous communication such as email is different and has been established through further caselaw.

OSCOLA reference this article/case: LawLessons, Adams v Lindsell (1818) 106 ER 250′ (LawLessons, 5th January 2021) <https://lawlessons.co.uk/adams-v-lindsell-1818-106-er-250> accessed 24th July 2021

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