McLaughlin v Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd: 15 Jul 1904

(High Court of Australia) The court considered the law on the effect of mental incapacity on a contract in the two cases Imperial Loan, and Molton v Camroux: ‘The principle of the decision seems, however, to be the same in both cases, which, in our judgment, establish that a contract made by a person actually of unsound, but apparently of sound mind with another who deals with him directly, and who has no knowledge of the unsoundness of mind, is as valid as if the unsoundness of mind had not existed. If the man dealing with the person of unsound mind is aware of his insanity, the contract is voidable at the option of the latter, but the party who takes advantage of the other cannot himself set up the incapacity. In this respect the matter is treated on the same footing as cases of fraud inducing a contract. There is, indeed, authority for saying that the equitable doctrines governing the validity or invalidity of a contract made with an insane person are only a particular instance of the general doctrines relating to fraudulent contracts. In the cases last mentioned no unfairness of dealing could be imputed to the persons who sought to take advantage of the contract, which was, in fact, made, In each case, with an apparently sane person. The principle appears to be that the validity of a contract made with an apparently sane person is to be determined – by the application of the same rules as are applied in ordinary cases.’


Griffith CJ


[1904] 1 CLR 243, [1904] UKPC 46






CitedMolton v Camroux CEC 2-Jan-1848
The buyer of annuities from a company was of unsound mind. The company had acted in its normal course of business.
Held: The court asked ‘whether the mere fact of unsoundness of mind, which was not apparent, is sufficient to vacate a fair . .
CitedImperial Loan Co v Stone CA 1892
Contract without Capacity – Voidable not Void
A person of unsound mind was sued on a promissory note. He had signed it as surety. The jury found that he was insane when he signed the note but there was no finding as to the creditor’s knowledge of such insanity. The judge entered a verdict . .

Cited by:

CitedHart v O’Connor PC 22-Apr-1985
Effect of insanity on making of contract
(New Zealand) The parties disputed the effect in law of an agreement for the sale of land. The transferor had proved not to be of sound mind.
Held: The validity of a contract entered into by a lunatic who is ostensibly sane is to be judged by . .
CitedArcher v Cutler 1980
(New Zealand) The purchaser of land sought specific performance of the contract. The vendor and purchaser had been neighbours. The neighbour needed part of the vendor’s land for access.
Held: A contract made by a person of insufficient mental . .
CitedHart v O’Connor, O’Connor O’Connor PC 22-May-1985
(New Zealand Court of Appeal) The Board reversed the decision which had rescinded an agreement for the sale of land by a vendor aged eighty-three years and of unsound mind. In rejecting a submission that the transaction constituted an unconscionable . .
CitedDunhill v Burgin SC 12-Mar-2014
Lack of Capacity – Effect on Proceedings
The Court was asked ‘First, what is the test for deciding whether a person lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings on her own behalf (in which case the Civil Procedure Rules require that she has a litigation friend to conduct the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 07 December 2022; Ref: scu.252448