Tinn v Hoffman – Case Summary

Tinn v Hoffman

Queen’s Bench Division

Citations: (1873) 29 LT 271.


The defendant offered by letter to sell the claimant 800 tons of iron for 69s per ton. In the letter, the defendant specified that the claimant should reply by post. By coincidence, the claimant wrote to the defendant on the same day asking to buy the iron on the same terms. The claimant contended that his letter to the defendant was a valid acceptance, even though he sent it before receiving the defendant’s letter.

  1. Must an acceptance be motivated by a received offer to be valid?

The court held in favour of the defendant. The claimant could not accept an offer of which he was not aware, so the letter was not a valid acceptance.

This Case is Authority For…

The offeree must be aware of the offer before they can validly accept it.


The court noted that while the defendant had specified that any acceptance should be by post, if the claimant had accepted by an equally fast or faster method (such as telegram or in person) this would also be valid.