Scriven Bros and Co. v Hindley and Co. [1913] 3 KB 564

Contract – Mutual Mistake – Subject Matter – Voiding a Contract – Reasonable Man – Sample – Consensus ad Idem – Meeting of the minds


The complainants, Scriven Bros and Co, instructed an auctioneer to sell large bales of tow and hemp on behalf of them at an auction. The bales looked rather similar in the way they were packaged and the samples that were on display to potential bidders were not easily distinguishable. The defendants, Hindley and Co, believed they were bidding for two lots of hemp, when actually one of the lots was tow. The bid that was made was overpriced, but was accepted by the complainants. When the defendants found out that it was tow, they refused to pay for the lot and the complainant sued them for the price.


The issue in this case was whether there was a contract between the two parties or if it would be void for mutual mistake as to the subject matter of the contract.


The court held that there was no contract between the complainant and defendant, due to faults on both sides. This meant that there was no consensus ad idem or meeting of the minds to make it a binding contract. The complainant had not made the hemp and tow samples sufficiently clear and the defendant had not brought a catalogue along to the auction, as well as inspected the samples thoroughly before bidding. The defendant’s negligence contributed to the mistakes of the complainant in this case.