Hartog v Colin & Shields – Case Summary

Hartog v Colin & Shields

High Court

Citations: [1939] 3 All ER 566.


The defendants contracted with the claimants to sell 30,000 Argentine hare skins. By mistake, they offered the skins at a particular price per pound rather than per piece. This made the goods two-thirds cheaper than they should have been. In the parties previous negotiations, the parties always discussed the price per piece. Expert testimony indicated that this was the norm for hare skin sales. The claimant accepted the offer, and tried to enforce the contract.

  1. Did the parties have a binding contract?

The Court held in favour of the defendant. The claimant should reasonably have known that the offer was a mistake. They were therefore not able to make a binding contract by accepting it.

This Case is Authority For…

A contract will only be void for unilateral mistake if the other party was aware of the mistake, should reasonably have been aware of it.

A purchaser is not entitled to ‘snap up’ an offer which he knows (or ought to have known) was made by mistake.