Dickinson v. Dodds – Case Brief Summary

Summary of Dickinson v. Dodds, 2 Ch. D. 463 (1876).


On Wednesday, June 10, 1874 Dodds (D) sent Dickinson (P) a memorandum in which he agreed to sell a specified piece of land for 800 pounds with the offer held open until 9AM the following Friday. Dickinson alleged that he had decided to accept Dodds’ offer on Thursday morning but did not contact him immediately because he thought he had until Friday morning to accept. On Thursday afternoon Dickinson learned that Dodds had offered or agreed to sell the land to a third party. Dickinson wrote a note accepting the offer and delivered it to his home, leaving it with his mother-in-law who neglected to give the note to Dodds. On Friday morning before the original deadline to accept the offer, both Dickinson and his agent gave Dodds a written acceptance of the offer. Dodds stated that he had already sold the land to another party the previous day.

Dickinson sued for specific performance. The trial court found in Dickinson’s favor and ordered that Dodds convey the property to him and Dodds appealed.


  • Whether a promise to hold an offer open is binding where the other party does not accept until after he learns that the offeror has already conveyed the property.

Holding and Rule

  • No. An open offer to sell terminates when the offeree learns that the offeror has already agreed to sell to someone else.

The court stated that since Dickinson knew that Dodds’ offer had been implicitly withdrawn when he learned that he had sold the property to someone else, there was no meeting of the minds at the time acceptance was made and therefore a binding contract was not formed.


Judgment reversed.

See Lumley v. Wagner for a law school contracts case brief addressing the issue of specific performance in the context of a contract for personal services.

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