Couturier v Hastie (1858) 5 HLC 673

Key point

  • A contract is void for common mistake as to the existence of subject matter


  • Couturier (C) chartered a vessel to ship corn from Greece to London
  • C engaged Hastie (D) to sell the corn in return for commission
  • D purportedly sold the corn to Callander, but at the time of contract, the corn had already been sold off at Tunis
  • C sued D for price that they are entitled to from the sale to Callander

Held (House of Lords)

  • Claim failed, the contract of sale with Callander is void

Lord Cranworth L.C

  • Contrary to what the parties contemplated in the contract there is nothing to be bought and sold


  • The ratio from this case is now codified in s6 Sale of Goods Act: Where there is a contract for the sale of specific goods, and the goods without the knowledge of the seller have perished at the time when the contract is made, the contract is void.