Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [1892] EWCA Civ 1 | 7 December 1892

ON 7 DECEMBER 1892, the England and Wales Court of Appeal delivered Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [1892] EWCA Civ 1; [1893] 1 QB 256.

Carbolic Smoke Ball Company was the manufacturer of the Carbolic Smoke Ball which they claimed could prevent “influenza, colds, or any disease caused by taking cold…”.

Carbolic promoted the product with the following advertisement:

“100 pounds reward will be paid by the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company to any person who contracts the increasing epidemic influenza, colds, or any disease caused by taking cold, after having used the ball three times daily for two weeks according to the printed directions supplied with each ball. 1,000 pounds is deposited with the Alliance Bank, Regent Street, showing our sincerity in the matter”.

On the strength of the advertisement, Carlill purchased the smoke ball, used it as directed but nevertheless caught the flue. She claimed the 100 pounds which Carlill refused to pay on the basis that there was no binding contract because the advertisement was a “mere puff” that meant nothing.

The Court of Appeal held that there was a binding contract.

Per Lindley LJ ((1893) 1 Q.B. 256, at p. 262): “…the person who makes the offer shows by his language and from the nature of the transaction that he does not expect and does not require notice of the acceptance, apart from notice of the performance.”


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