Wenkheim v Ardnt (1873) 1 JR 73

Contract law – Offer and acceptance


This case was heard and decided in New Zealand. The facts of the case were that the plaintiff offered to marry the defendant. The defendant sent her acceptance of the marriage proposal by way of a letter back to the plaintiff. The defendant’s mother attempted to retract her daughter’s acceptance of the marriage proposal offered to her daughter by the plaintiff. She did so by communicating this by telegram, before her daughter’s acceptance was received by the plaintiff. From this, a dispute arose between the parties and an action was brought to the court.


The key issue for the court to establish, in this instance, was whether the acceptance of the marriage proposal had been effectively retracted by the mother by sending the telegram to the plaintiff, before her daughter’s acceptance had been received. In considering this matter, the court was also required to understand the status of the defendant’s mother in proceedings. Specifically, this would be to determine whether she was a party to the communication between the plaintiff and defendant or whether she would be deemed to be an unauthorised third party.


The court held that the retraction of the offer, by way of a telegram from the defendant’s mother, was invalid under the circumstances. The court found that retraction of acceptance was not available to the defendant, particularly when introduced by an unauthorised third party. The court ordered that one farthing was paid to the plaintiff for the damage caused by the actions of the defendant’s mother.