Chapelton v Barry UDC [1940] 1 KB 532

Key point

  • A display of items and notices put up beside them can sometimes constitute a valid offer of a contract
  • A mere receipt that is given after a contract has been offered and accepted cannot incorporate terms into a contract

Facts

  • C hired a deck chair on the beach from D
  • C paid the attendant and received a ticket for the hire of a deck chair containing exclusion of liability for personal injury
  • The deck chair gave way and C was injured
  • C sued D for negligence but D argued that it had exempted liability by its ticket

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • C claim for negligence was not excluded
  • The ticket was a mere receipt, the exclusion clause was not incorporated into the contract

Slesser LJ

  • The ‘pile of chairs there standing ready for use’ and the notice put up by the pile of chairs ‘that the sum charged for the hire of a chair was 2d. per session of three hours’ constituted the ‘whole of the offer‘ which D made in this case
  • ‘I think the object of the giving and the taking of this ticket was that the person taking it might have evidence at hand by which he could show that the obligation he was under to pay 2d. for the use of the chair for three hours had been duly discharged, and I think it is altogether inconsistent, in the absence of any qualification of liability in the notice put up near the pile of chairs, to attempt to read into it the qualification contended for. In my opinion, this ticket is no more than a receipt, and is quite different from a railway ticket which contains upon it the terms upon which a railway company agrees to carry the passenger.’

Commentary

  • Note that in this case, the display of the pile of chairs constituted an offer. This is inconsistent with cases such as Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v. Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd. [1953] 1 QB 401 in which it was held that displays are not offers to customers.
  • It can be seen that the courts are willing to twist the rules and be flexible in finding when an offer arises in a particular case so as to fix the point where the contract had formed in a way that results in a fair outcome