Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1971] 2 QB 163

Key points

  • The point of time of contract formation is crucial as to whether notice to incorporate a term is effective
  • Reasonable notice must be given for an exemption clause to be incorporated


  • C drove his car into D’s multi-storey car park, inserted money into an automatic machine and was issued with a ticket stated to be ‘subject to the conditions of issue as displayed on the premises’
  • Notices in the carpark excluded liability for damage and for personal injury

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • The contract was already formed before notice was given to C
  • The exemption of liability was not incorporated into the contract

Lord Denning MR

Notice came after contract formation

  • The customer cannot refuse and get his money back the moment he pays into the machine
  • The offer is made when the owner of the machine holds the machine out as being ready to receive money and acceptance takes place when the customer put his money into the slot
  • The ticket came too late after the contract was formed, citing Olley v Malborough Court
  • The ticket was a mere receipt, citing Chapleton v Barry UDC

Notice was insufficient in any case

  • But assuming that the automatic machine is a booking clerk instead, Parker v South Eastern Railway would apply, C is bound by the exempting condition if he had actual notice or if D did what was reasonably sufficient to give him notice of it
  • D did not do what was reasonably sufficient to give notice
  • The condition is so wide and destructive of rights that the court should not hold any man bound unless it is drawn to his attention in the most explicit way