Felthouse v Bindley [1862] EWHC CP J35

Contract – Offer – Tort of Conversion – Acceptance - Silence


The complainant, Paul Felthouse, had a conversation with his nephew, John Felthouse, about buying his horse. After their discussion, the uncle replied by letter stating that if he didn’t hear anymore from his nephew concerning the horse, he would consider acceptance of the order done and he would own the horse. His nephew did not reply to this letter and was busy at auctions. The defendant, Mr Bindley, ran the auctions and the nephew advised him not to sell the horse. However, by accident he ended up selling the horse to someone else.


Paul Felthouse sued Mr Bindley in the tort of conversion, with it necessary to show that the horse was his property, in order to prove there was a valid contract. Mr Bindley argued there was no valid contract for the horse, since the nephew had not communicated his acceptance of the complainant’s offer. The issue in this case was whether silence or a failure to reject an offer amount to acceptance.


It was held that there was no contract for the horse between the complainant and his nephew. There had not been an acceptance of the offer; silence did not amount to acceptance and an obligation cannot be imposed by another. Any acceptance of an offer must be communicated clearly. Although the nephew had intended to sell the horse to the complainant and showed this interest, there was no contract of sale. Thus, the nephew’s failure to respond to the complainant did not amount to an acceptance of his offer.