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Stevenson Jacques & Co v Mclean
312 words (1 pages) Case Summary
28th Sep 2021 Case Summary Reference this In-house law team
Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law
Legal Case Summary
Stevenson Jaques & Co. v McLean (1880) 5 QBD 346
Contract – Acceptance – Telegraph – Postal Rule – Revocation – Offer
The defendant, Mclean, offered to sell iron to the complainant, Stevenson Jaques & Co. This was for the price of 40s and the offer would remain open until Monday. The complainant sent a telegram to the defendant, asking whether he would accept a payment of 40 over a two-month period, or what his longest limit would be for payment. McLean did not respond to this telegram. The defendant sold the iron to another party, but did not inform the complainant of this action. On Monday morning, the complaint sent a telegram to accept the offer, unware it had been sold.
The complainant sued the defendant for non-delivery of the iron and that this was a breach of contract. The issue in the case was whether there was binding contract between the parties and if the telegram sent by the complainant was an inquiry for information or a counter offer.
The court heard the complainant was only inquiring for more information about whether the terms of the offer could be changed; there was no specific wording to indicate that it was a counter offer or rejection. This was in contrast to Hyde v Wrench . This meant that the offer made by the defendant was still valid and the second telegram by the complaint formed a binding contract. While the promise of the offer remaining open until Monday was not itself binding and an offeror can revoke this at any time, there had been no revocation communicated to the complainant in this case.
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UK law covers the laws and legislation of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Essays, case summaries, problem questions and dissertations here are relevant to law students from the United Kingdom and Great Britain, as well as students wishing to learn more about the UK legal system from overseas.
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Stevenson, Jaques & Co v McLean – Case Summary
Stevenson, jaques & co v mclean.
Citations : (1880) 5 QBD 346.
The defendant possessed several warrants for iron. He wrote the claimant in London asking them if they could find him a buyer. After negotiations, the defendant stated that 40s per ton was the lowest price he was willing to sell for. He told the claimant that this offer was open until the following Monday.
The claimants sent a telegram on Monday morning asking if the defendant agreed to delivery over two months, and if not, how long he could give. The defendant did not respond, and sold the warrants to a third-party later that day. Before he informed the claimant of this, they sent another telegram in the afternoon accepting the defendant’s offer .
The claimant sued the defendant for damages for non-delivery of the iron. The defendant argued that the claimant’s first telegram was a counter-offer, and therefore that his original offer had been revoked.
- What was the nature of the claimant’s first telegram?
- Was the offer still capable of being accepted on Monday afternoon?
The Court held in favour of the claimant. The first telegram was merely an inquiry for information, not a counter-offer. While the defendant could have revoked his offer at any time on Monday, he failed to do so before the offer was accepted. There was therefore a completed contract between the parties.
This Case is Authority For…
Requests for information are not counter-offers or acceptances. They have no legal effect.
An offer can be revoked at any time prior to acceptance. This is the case even if the offeror states that it will remain open for a specific amount of time.
Stevenson v McLean (1880) 5 QBD 346
- by Will Chen
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- An offeror is not bound to not revoke his offer before the deadline for acceptance in a mutual contract
- An inquiry on the offer that does not reject the offer does not amount to a counteroffer
- D offered to sell iron to C for “40s, net cash, open till Monday”
- On Monday morning C sent telegram to D: “Please wire whether you would accept forty for delivery over two months, or if not, longest limit you would give”
- On Monday, C then sent a telegram to D stating acceptance of D’s offer
- Later that day, D, having not yet received C’s acceptance, telegrammed C stating that iron had been sold
- C sued D for breach of contract
Held (High Court, Queen’s Bench)
- D was liable for breach of contract
- The revocation ineffective as it had not been delivered to C before the acceptance was sent
- C’s first telegram is a mere inquiry and not rejection of the offer
- If the telegram were ‘I offer forty for delivery over two months,’ it would be a counteroffer and a rejection of the offer, as in Hyde v Wrench : p. 350
- A party who gives time to another to accept the offer is not bound to wait till the time expires
- A unilateral promise to wait is not binding since no consideration is offered
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Key Case | Stevenson v McLean (1980) | Formation of Contract - Enquiry on Offer and Revocation of an Offer
Last updated 26 May 2021
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The case establshed, when an offeree makes an enquiry in response to an offer, this is not a counter-offer and thus does not destroy the original offer, which remains capable of acceptance; further offerors do have the right to revoke offers, but only where this is communicated to the offeree.
Facts: The defendant offered to sell iron to the claimant on Saturday, at a specific price and stated that the offer would remain open until Monday, the claimant asked within this time frame if it would be possible to make payment over a period of time rather than at one point. The defendant did not respond to the enquiry but decided to proceed with the sale to another interested buyer. Without a response the claimant, still within the agreed time frame (before Monday) accepted the original offer made. The claimant then sought a claim against the defendant when they refused to recognise the contract.
Outcome: Liable – a contract had been formed
Legal principle: An enquiry to an offer is not a counter-offer and thus does not destroy the original offer. The defendants would have had the legal right to revoke the offer before Monday, but this would only be effective when communicated to the offeree, as it was not, the acceptance of the offer was valid.
- Counter offer
- Case: Stevenson v Mclean (1880)
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Key case | dickinson v dodds (1876) | formation of contract - revocation of an offer, key case | jones v daniel (1894) | formation of contract - counter-offer, our subjects.
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Brief of Stevenson Jacques & Co v Mclean
Brief of stevenson jacques & co v mclean by legum.
STEVENSON, JAQUES, & CO. v. MCLEAN. - (1880) 5 Q.B.D. 346
The defendant offered to sell iron to the plaintiff. Upon receipt of the offer, the plaintiff wrote to the offeror “please wire whether you would accept forty for delivery over two months, or if not, longest limit you could give.” The defendant sold the iron to a different party, presuming the plaintiff’s letter was a counter offer. The plaintiff later sent a letter accepting the offer, and got a response that the iron had been sold. The plaintiff sued for breach of contract.
1. Whether the plaintiff’s response was a counter offer.
1. The plaintiff’s response was not a counter offer.
The court ruled that the plaintiff was merely asking for information and that this does not constitute a counter offer.
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