Law Of Contract – To My Mind It Is A Mistake – For Sale Barristers Assignment

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“To my mind it is a mistake to think that all contracts can be analysed into the form of offer and acceptance.  I know in some of the textbooks it has been the custom to do so; but, as I understand the law, there is no need to look for a strict offer and acceptance.  You should look at the correspondence as a whole and at the conduct of the parties and see therefrom whether the parties have come to an agreement on everything that was material…” (per Lord Denning, Gibson v Manchester City Council [1978] 1 WLR 220, at 523)

With reference to the above statement, outline the main rules of offer and acceptance and critically assess whether the law in this area is sufficiently clear, supporting your answer with appropriate case authority and commentary.

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After twenty years as a barrister, Michael has decided to do something different and set up an outdoor adventure centre.  To raise money for the centre, he decides to sell his wig and gowns.  He places the following advertisement on

For sale barristers’ wig and gown, excellent condition £700 o.n.o [or nearest offer].

Two days later, 2nd September, Richard telephoned Michael and offered £600.  Michael said that as this was the first call he had had, he would think about it and let him know at the end of the week.  When he put the phone down he saw that he had received an email from Joe saying that he would be happy to pay £650.  Michael replies saying that he will accept £680.  Joe replies accepting but asks if he can pay in two instalments.  In the middle of typing a reply to say that he requires the full amount in one payment, Andrew telephoned saying he would like to buy the wig and gown for his daughter Jodie who was just about to start pupillage.  As they were chatting, they realised they had been at law school together and Michael offered the wig and gown for £650.  Just as Andrew told Michael he would pay the full amount in cash, a delivery arrived of flyers for the outdoor centre and Michael, distracted, did not hear Andrew and told him he would call him back later.

Michael is busy with the marketing material for the outdoor adventure centre and decides to finalise the sale of the wig and gown in a few days.  On 5th September whilst at work he receives an email from Richard saying he will pay the full £700 and asking when he can collect and an email from Joe requesting details of his Paypal account so that he can pay his first instalment.  Just as he is thinking about what to do, Andrew arrives with £650 in cash saying that he has come to collect the wig and gown.

Michael intends to have a tree-top climbing activity at his adventure centre and would like an established company to provide this.  He writes to ‘Go Wild’, ‘Crazy Climbers’ and ‘Aim High’ (see Appendix).  ‘Crazy Climbers’ and ‘Aim High’ submitted their tenders on 15th September but ‘Go Wild’, who had done a trial session with Michael, did not submit their tender until 4.30pm on the 16th.  Michael was so excited to receive the first two tenders, he forgot to check the box on the 16th and, assuming ‘Go Wild’ were late, did not consider it.  He awarded the contract to ‘Aim High’.  ‘Go Wild’ are furious and say they will sue Michael for breach of contract.

To raise awareness of the new centre, Michael decides to run a promotion at the University of Brighthove.  He puts posters up in the Student Union stating that for any student who takes part in the Brighthove marathon, he will provide a free 5-day course at the centre.  The posters show a photograph of the new centre and people doing kayaking; canyoning; paddle-boarding and rock-climbing.  Cara sees the poster and decides to run the marathon, which she does successfully.  Zoe runs the marathon too.  She hadn’t seen the poster but Cara tells her about the free course after they finish.  Toby also saw the poster and decided to run the marathon but he overslept and was late starting.  Michael, on realising that more students were participating than he thought, went to the starting-line with a loud-hailer, announcing that the offer was withdrawn.  After he had run about 500 metres Toby heard the announcement but decided to carry on anyway.  Zoe and Cara had already started and did not hear the announcement.  Cara, Zoe and Toby have all contacted Michael to ask for details of the free 5-day course.

Advise Michael as to his legal position in respect of the wig and gown, ‘Go Wild’ and the free 5-day course, supporting your answer with appropriate authorities.

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