Dickinson v Dodds (1875) 2 Ch D 463

Contract – Offer – Acceptance – Promise – Third Party


The defendant, Mr Dodds, wrote to the complainant, Mr Dickinson, with an offer to sell his house to him for £800. He promised that he would keep this offer open to him until Friday. However, on the Thursday Mr Dodds accepted an offer from a third party and sold his house to them. It was claimed that Mr Dickinson was going to accept this offer, but had not said anything to Mr Dodds because he understood that he had until Friday. Mr Dodds communicated that the offer had been withdrawn through a friend to the complainant. After hearing this, Mr Dickinson went to find the defendant, explaining his acceptance of the offer. The complainant brought an action for specific performance and breach of contract against the defendant.


The issue in this case was whether the defendant’s promise to keep the offer open until Friday morning was a binding contract between the parties and if he was allowed to revoke this offer and sell to a third party.


The court held that the statement made by Mr Dodds was nothing more than a promise; there was no binding contract formed. He had communicated an offer for buying his house to the complainant and this offer can be revoked any time before there is acceptance. There was no deposit to change this situation. Thus, as there was no obligation to keep the offer open, there could be no ‘meeting of the minds’ between the parties. In addition, the court stated that a communication by a friend or other party that an offer had been withdrawn was valid and would be treated as if it came from the person themselves.