Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. – Case Brief Summary

Summary of Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. [1893] Q.B. 256 (C.A.).

Facts

Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (D) manufactured and sold The Carbolic Smoke Ball. The company placed ads in various newspapers offering a reward of 100 pounds to any person who used the smoke ball three times per day as directed and contracted influenza, colds, or any other disease. After seeing the ad Carlill (P) purchased a ball and used it as directed. Carlill contracted influenza and made a claim for the reward. Carbolic Smoke Ball refused to pay and Carlill sued for damages arising from breach of contract. Judgment for 100 pounds was entered for Carlill and Carbolic Smoke Ball appealed.

Issue

  • Does one who makes a unilateral offer for the sale of goods by means of an advertisement impliedly waive notification of acceptance, if his purpose is to sell as much product as possible?

Holding and Rule (Lindley)

  • Yes. One who makes a unilateral offer for the sale of goods by means of an advertisement impliedly waives notification of acceptance if his purpose is to sell as much product as possible.

The court held that a person who makes an offer may decline to require notice of acceptance if he or she wishes. One who makes an offer dispenses with the requirement of notice of acceptance if the form of the offer shows that notice of acceptance is not required. To accept an offer, a person need only follow the indicated method of acceptance. If the offeror either expressly or impliedly intimates in his offer that it will be sufficient to act without giving notice of acceptance, performance is sufficient acceptance without notification.

The court held that an advertisement is considered to be an offer when it specifies the quantity of persons who are eligible to accept its terms. If such an advertisement requires performance, the offeree is not required to give notice of his performance.

The court addressed the issue of whether the ad was intended to be a promise or whether it was merely “puffing”. The court pointed to Carbolic Smoke Ball’s claim in the advertisement that it had deposited 1000 pounds with Alliance Bank, which the court decided was intended to demonstrate the company’s sincerity in paying the reward.

Concurring (Bowen)

Notification of acceptance is required under our law. The person who makes the offer may dispense with notice to himself if he thinks it desirable to do so. He may expressly or impliedly create any method of acceptance for his offer. An offeree need only follow the method indicated for acceptance. The requirement of notice of acceptance to the offeror must be determined by an objective reasonable person standard.

In the advertisement case, it seems to me that an inference may be drawn from the transaction itself that a person is not to notify his acceptance of the offer before he performs the condition, but that if he performs the condition notification is dispensed with. We must look to the essence of the transaction and what the offeror is bargaining for under the circumstances. Under these facts, the defendant impliedly indicated that it did not require notification of acceptance of the offer.

Disposition

Appeal dismissed.

See Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc. and Lefkowitz v. Great Minneapolis Surplus Store for case briefs of two other cases in which advertisements were held to be valid offers and not merely invitations to contract.


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