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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018

Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company

In this case the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company manufactured a product that it dully named the smoke ball, thus the company claimed that the product could cure for influenza and quite a number of other diseases. Hence the smoke ball was made of a rubber with a tube that was attached to it then filled with some carbolic acid. This tube was then to be inserted into the user’s nose whereby it was squeezed at the bottom to help release the vapors into the nose of the user, thus this enabled the nose to run and hence flush out the viral infection.

The company went ahead and published advertisements in the newspapers on November 13, 1891, the company continued and claimed that it would pay £100 to anyone who would get sick or one could be diagnosed with the influenza after using the smoke ball with regard to the very instructions that were given and set out in the advertisement.

The “£100 reward which was posted would be paid by the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company to any specific person who would contract the very high increasing epidemic influenza colds, or any other disease caused by taking cold, after thus having used the smoke ball three times every day for about two weeks according to the very printed directions supplied with each ball.

Moreover the company to the extent of showing its faith to its customers it deposited £1000 with the Alliance Bank, Regent Street, hence publicly showing total sincerity in the matter.

However during the last epidemic of the influenza quite a number of carbolic smoke balls were sold, actually thousands of them were sold as preventives against this disease and there was no single case was the disease contracted by those using the company’s carbolic smoke ball.

The company’s one carbolic smoke ball would therefore last a family several months, hence making it one of the cheapest remedy in the world at the price, 10s. Post free. The same ball however could be refilled at a cost of 5s with its address being; “Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, “27, Princes Street, Hanover Square, London.”

Mrs. Louisa Elizabeth Carlill who had seen the advertisement bought one of the balls and eventually used it three times daily for nearly two months until when she contracted the flu on January 17, 1892. Hence due to her adherence of the instructions she claimed £100 reward from the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company; however the company ignored two letters from the victims husband who had trained as a solicitor. Again on her third request of her reward, the company replied with an ambiguous letter that if the product was used in the best way possible then it had complete and full confidence in the smoke ball’s efficiency. Hence for them to protect themselves against any fraudulent claims they would require her to visit their office and use the product each day with the surveillance of the secretary. Thus this lend Mrs. Carill in bringing a claim to court where the lawyers representing her argued that the said advertisement and the reliance of the victim on it was a contract between the victim and the company and thus they were supposed to pay which made the company to argue that it was not a serious contract. During its judgment the Court of Appeal heavily and unanimously rejected the all the company’s arguments and eventually held that there was a legally binding contract for £100 with Mrs. Carlill, hence Carbolic Smoke Ball appealed.

The above case is largely cited to be one of the leading and major case in the common law of contract, especially where unilateral contracts are dully concerned. However it is fully deemed to be very hard to notice whether there might have been any element of exchange or promise between the said user and the manufacturer. Hence in this case the court took the major position that there was what they named a unilateral contract between the two parties, thus it is where only one party comes under an enforceable obligation. It is of much wisdom that both parties understand fully what a contract is; hence a contract is simply defined as a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties with mutual obligations or in relation to a particular subject.

However it is of great importance to really differentiate an offer from an invitation to treat which is an invitation where other people are invited to submit offers. Hence invitation to treat may henceforth include goods displayed on a window or shelf, auctions and advertisements. Thus the issue in our case above was that does any advertisement in regard to the whole public which promises to pay a reward to anyone who does something create a legally binding contract between the two? The defendant however argued that the said contract was too shallow to be legally enforced as there was no clear way to check if the said conditions were met, this makes it clear that one would not contract with the whole world and that the time frame was again not really specified. The defendant further claimed that the acceptance to the offeror was not communicated and thus there was no consideration.

“How would an ordinary person construe this document? Was it intended that the 100 should, if the conditions were fulfilled, be paid? The advertisement says that 1000 is lodged at the bank for this purpose. Therefore the statement was not a mere puff, it was intended to be understood by the public as an offer which was to be acted upon.” (As per Bowen L.J)

Moreover it is clear to note that there is whatsoever no any reason in law not to legally enforce the contract because of some extravagance of a promise, hence if it is supposed to be an offer to bound it thus automatically becomes a contract the moment that person adheres to the condition. However in any advertising cases whereby notifications are to be required then this is determined through the language of the said advertisement and the much known nature of the transaction.

In any case whatsoever the law does not engage the court to weigh the adequacy of consideration thus any for any inconvenience that is gained by one party due to the request of the other is deemed hence enough to create consideration. In the case above, a relation be drawn from the deal itself that any person is thus not to notify or show acceptance of the offer before there is the duly performance of the condition, but after an individual performs the condition notification is dispensed with. Looking deeply at our case and what the offeror bargains for under the circumstances, There is an impliedly indication by the defendant that it does not thus require any notification of acceptance of the offer with regards to the said facts.

Thus unilateral contracts are therefore treated as offers. Moreover where it is absolutely clear that an ordinary person will construe an intention to offer, then anyone thus who actually relies largely on this offer and follows the required conditions therefore accepts the offer and hence forms a legally enforceable contract. Thus due to the reward that was included in the same advertisement by the company it shows a general exception to the rule hence it is treated as an offer, thus the defendant was liable to pay the reward and hence deemed guilty. Moreover the company’s claim that it had duly deposited £1000 at the Alliance Bank shows that very positiveness and seriousness of the company with an intention to form a legally bound

relationship with the other party.

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