Hyde v Wrench (1840) 49 ER 132

Contract – Counter Offer – Acceptance – Offer – Negotiation – Breach of contract – Specific Performance


The defendant, Mr Wrench, offered to sell the farm he owned to the complainant, Mr Hyde. He offered to sell the property for £1,200, but this was declined by Mr Hyde. The defendant decided to write to the complainant with another offer; this time to sell the farm to him for £1,000. He made it clear that this would be his final offer regarding the property. In response, Mr Hyde offered £950 for the farm in his letter. This was refused by Mr Wrench and he confirmed this with the complainant. Mr Hyde then agreed to buy the farm for £1,000, which was the sum that had previously been offered.  However, Mr Wrench refused to sell his farm.


The complainant brought an action for specific performance, claiming that as Mr Wrench refused to sell the farm, this was a breach of contract. The issue in this case was whether there was a valid contract between the parties and if a counter offer was made in discussions, whether the original offer would still remain open.


The court dismissed the claims and held that there was no binding contract for the farm between Mr Hyde and Mr Wrench. It was stated that when a counter offer is made, this supersedes and destroys the original offer. This original offer is no longer available or on the table. In this case, when Mr Hyde offered £950, he cancelled the £1,000 offer and could not back track and accept.