King’s Norton Metal Co v Edridge Merrett & Co
Court of Appeal
Citations: (1897) 14 TLR 98.
A rogue ordered goods from King’s Norton Metal. When placing the order, he convinced King’s Norton Metal that he was a wealthy businessman associated with ‘Hallum & Co’. In fact, there was no such company. The rogue then took possession of the goods on credit, sold them to Edridge Merrett and vanished.
King’s Norton Metal sued Edridge Merrett for the return of the goods under the tort of conversion. To establish this, they had to show that their contract with the rogue was void for unilateral mistake. If it is was merely voidable for misrepresentation, then property would have passed to the rogue, who would have passed that property to the claimant before the contract could be voided.
- Was the contract between the rogue and King’s Norton Metal void for unilateral mistake?
The Court of Appeal held in favour of Edridge Merrett. The rogue contracted with King’s Norton Metal on their own behalf, without any deception as to any of the fundamental terms of the contract. The contract was not void for mistake, merely voidable for misrepresentation.
This Case is Authority For…
Where parties contract at a distance, a person who lies about their identity by inventing a wholly fictitious identity is not lying about any fundamental term of the contract. Such a person is merely lying about their attributes, so the contract cannot be void for mistake.