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Smith v Hughes (1871) LR 6 QB 597

Contract Law – Offer and Acceptance

Smith v Hughes (1871) LR 6 QB 597 is a key case within the contract law degree module for university LLB degree courses. The case concerns offer and acceptance for the formation of a contract.

Facts:

In this case Mr Smith was the complainant. Mr Hughes was the defendant. Smith showed Hughes a sample of oats, in response to this Hughes ordered 40 to 50 quarters of oats at 34 shillings per quarter.

Hughes received 16 quarters of oats, but upon receipt of the goods he complained they were not what he thought they would be. Hughes received green oats but needed old oats as this is what the racehorses were eating for their diet. Importantly, the sample shown to Hughes prior to the formation of the contract were green oats, the same as goods received.

Hughes refused to pay for the delivery of goods received and the remaining order.

Issues:

Had there been a formation of a contract between Hughes and Smith?

Smith argued there was a breach of contract by Hughes not paying for the delivery and remaining order.

Could the contract be avoided by Hughes due to the delivery of goods not being what he expected?

Held:

It was held that a contract had been formed. The contract could not be avoided. This is because there was no express discussion about the type of oats to be delivered and received. There was no express request of old oats rather than green oats. The objective test showed a reasonable person would have expected normal, healthy oats such as green ones, rather than old oats. Hughes had an opportunity to inspect the sample of oats prior to delivery and therefore reasonably would have expected the same type of oats, green instead of old. This is an example of caveat emptor or buyer beware.

More information on Caveat Emptor is available here.

OSCOLA reference this article/case: Lawlessons, ‘Smith v Hughes (1871) LR 6 QB 597‘ (LawLessons, 10th August 2021) <https://lawlessons.co.uk/smith-v-hughes-1871-lr-6-qb-597> accessed 8th July 2022

Published inOffer and Acceptance
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