Tinn v Hoffman (1873) 29 LT 271

Tinn v Hoffman (1873) 29 LT 271

Contract – Offer – Acceptance – Post – Cross Offer – Counter Offer – Contract Formation


The defendant, Mr Hoffman wrote to the complainant, Mr Tinn with an offer to sell him 800 tons of iron for the price of 69s per ton. He requested a reply to this offer by post. On the same day, without knowing of this offer, Mr Tin also wrote to Mr Hoffman. He offered to buy the iron on similar terms. This case concerned the validity of these two cross offers.


The issue in this case was whether there was a valid contract between Mr Tinn and Mr Hoffman for the sale of the iron. There was also the issue if acceptance had to be by post for it to be valid, as this was specified in the offer.


It was held in this case that there was no contract between Mr Tinn and Mr Hoffman for the iron. The cross offers were made simultaneously and without knowledge of one another; this was not a contract that would bind the parties for the iron. There is a difference between a cross offer and a counter offer. In order to form a valid contract, there must be communication that consists of an offer and acceptance. There was no acceptance by post, as had been stated in the offer. The court also said that while post had been indicated in the offer, another equally fast method would have been successful, such as a telegram or verbal message.