Smith v Hughes: QBD 1871

Blackburn J said: ‘I apprehend that if one of the parties intends to make a contract on one set of terms, and the other intends to make a contract on another set of terms, or, as it is sometimes expressed, if the parties are not ad idem, there is no contract, unless the circumstances are such as to preclude one of the parties from denying that he has agreed to the terms of the other. The rule of law is that stated in Freeman v Cooke. If, whatever a man’s real intention may be, he so conducts himself that a reasonable man would believe that he was assenting to the terms proposed by the other party, and that other party upon that belief enters into the contract with him, the man thus conducting himself would be equally bound as if he had intended to agree to the other party’s terms’
However: ‘The general rule, both of law and equity, in respect to concealment, is that mere silence with regard to a material fact, which there is no legal obligation to divulge, will not avoid a contract, although it operates as an injury to the party from whom it is concealed.’
Contractual liabilities and rights are based on what an objective reasonable observer would believe was the effect of what the parties to the contract, or alleged contract, communicated to each other by words and actions, as assessed in their context.

Cockburn CJ, Blackburn and Hannen, JJ
(1871) LR 6 QB 597, [1861-73] All ER 632
England and Wales
AppliedFreeman And Another, Assignees of William Broadbent v Cooke 1-Jul-1848
Where a party creates a belief in another’s mind, and causes the other to act upon that belief, he will not in subsequent court proceedings be heard to deny that belief: ‘a party who negigently of culpably stands by and allows another to contract on . .

Cited by:
CitedShogun Finance Limited v Hudson HL 19-Nov-2003
Thief acquired no title and could not sell
A purchaser used a stolen driving licence to obtain credit for and purchase a car. He then purported to sell it to the respondent, and then disappeared. The finance company sought return of the car.
Held: (Lords Nicholls and Millett . .
CitedVTB Capital Plc v Nutritek International Corp and Others SC 6-Feb-2013
The claimant bank said that it had been induced to create very substantial lending facilities by fraudulent misrepresentation by the defendants. They now appealed against findings that England was not clearly or distinctly the appropriate forum for . .
CitedDaventry District Council v Daventry and District Housing Ltd CA 13-Oct-2011
The appellant challenged refusal of rectification of its agreement with the defendant. They asserted either mutual or unilateral mistake. The parties had agreed for the transfer of housing stock and management staff to the respondents. The claimant . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.188457