Stevenson, Jaques & Co v McLean – Case Summary

Stevenson, Jaques & Co v McLean

High Court

Citations: (1880) 5 QBD 346.


The defendant possessed several warrants for iron. He wrote the claimant in London asking them if they could find him a buyer. After negotiations, the defendant stated that 40s per ton was the lowest price he was willing to sell for. He told the claimant that this offer was open until the following Monday.

The claimants sent a telegram on Monday morning asking if the defendant agreed to delivery over two months, and if not, how long he could give. The defendant did not respond, and sold the warrants to a third-party later that day. Before he informed the claimant of this, they sent another telegram in the afternoon accepting the defendant’s offer.

The claimant sued the defendant for damages for non-delivery of the iron. The defendant argued that the claimant’s first telegram was a counter-offer, and therefore that his original offer had been revoked.

  1. What was the nature of the claimant’s first telegram?
  2. Was the offer still capable of being accepted on Monday afternoon?

The Court held in favour of the claimant. The first telegram was merely an inquiry for information, not a counter-offer. While the defendant could have revoked his offer at any time on Monday, he failed to do so before the offer was accepted. There was therefore a completed contract between the parties.

This Case is Authority For…

Requests for information are not counter-offers or acceptances. They have no legal effect.


An offer can be revoked at any time prior to acceptance. This is the case even if the offeror states that it will remain open for a specific amount of time.