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Harris v Nickerson (1872) LR 8 QB
FORMATION OF CONTRACT – OFFER OF SALE
The defendant was an auctioneer who had advertised in the London papers that certain brewing materials, plant, and office furniture would be sold by him by auction at Bury St. Edmunds over a period of three specified days. The plaintiff was a commission broker in London, who attended the sale on the final day (on which it had been advertised that the office furniture, which he had commission to purchase, would be sold). However, on that day, all the lots of furniture were withdrawn by the defendant.
The claimant sought to recover his expenses and the time which he had wasted in attending the auction from the defendant, arguing that the withdrawal of the lots was a breach of contract which had been formed by the offer made by the defendant in the advertisement, and accepted by the claimant in attending the auction.
The issue was whether the advertisement placed by the defendant was a legally binding offer of sale, which had been accepted by the claimant’s attendance at the auction, forming a completed contract.
The court held, dismissing the claimant’s case, that the advertisement was merely a declaration to inform potential purchasers that the sale was taking place. It was not an offer to contract with anyone who might act upon it by attending the auction, nor was it a warranty that all the articles advertised would be put or sale. As such, it did not legally bind the defendant to auction the items in question on any particular day.
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