Hardman v Booth – Case Summary

Hardman v Booth

Court of Exchequer

Citations: (1863) 1 Hurlstone and Coltman 803; 158 ER 1107.


The claimant attended a business by the name of ‘Gandell & Co’. The business owner was Thomas Gandell. The business was managed by Edward Gandell, who was merely a clerk. The claimant asked to speak to ‘Messrs Gandell’, and was directed to Edward. Edward led the claimant to believe that he was one of the business owners. The claimant, acting on that belief, sent goods to Gandell & Co’s place of business addressed to ‘Edward Gandell & Co’. Edward pledged those goods to the defendant for credit, and the defendant later sold the goods.

The claimant sued for the defendant in trover for the proceeds of the sale. This action could only succeed if the claimant was still the owner of the goods. This would only be the case if there was no valid contract between the claimant and Edward. The claimant relied on the defence of mistake to show that any contract was void.

  1. Was any contract between the claimant and Edward void for mistake?

The Court held in favour of the claimant. The claimant intended to contract with Gandell & Co, not with Edward Gandell personally. Gandell & Co had not authorised Edward to contract on their behalf. As such, there was no contract between the claimant and Edward or the firm, and property had not passed. The claimant was entitled to the proceeds of sale.

This Case is Authority For…

Normally, the courts presume that parties who contract face-to-face intend to contract with the person in front of them, whomever that turns out to be. This case shows that this presumption can be rebutted where it is clear that the claimant only intended to contract with a specific person or entity.