Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1971] QB 163

Automatic ticket machine at car park; incorporation of terms displayed inside


Thornton drove his car to a car park. Outside the car park, the prices were displayed and a notice stated cars were parked at their owner’s risk. An automatic ticket machine provided a ticket, a barrier was raised and Thornton parked his car. In small print on the ticket it was stated to be issued subject to conditions displayed on the premises. On a pillar opposite the machine was a notice stating the owners would not be liable for any injuries occurring on their premises. Thornton had an accident and sought damages from Shoe Lane Parking (SLP).


SLP contended the contract was made when Thornton received the ticket and parked his car. The ticket amounted to a contractual document which effectively referred to the terms which were clearly visible on the premises. They had taken reasonable steps to bring them to Thornton’s attention, and they could rely on the exclusion clause and were not liable. Thornton argued the notice outside the car park amounted to the offer and the ticket machine could not then seek to introduce new terms because the contract was already formed. He contended if terms are to be successfully incorporated, they should be communicated before money is placed into the machine, or before the machine is operated.


The exclusion clause had not been successfully incorporated into the contract. SLP had not done enough to bring the existence of the terms to Thornton’s attention prior to the contract formation. The offer was contained within the notice at the entrance, and Thornton accepted the offer on those terms when he drove in. It was too late to seek to incorporate further terms after he had driven in to the car park.