Hartog v Colin & Shields [1939] 3 All ER 566

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  • The Plaintiff contracted with the Defendant to buy 30,000 rabbit skins
  • By mistake, the price was offered by weight rather than per piece
  • Presale negotiations had always been about per piece, which was how rabbit skins were usually sold
  • The Defendant refused to sell the Plaintiff the rabbit skins by the pound.


  • Was the contract binding?


  • In this unique instance, it was held that the Plaintiff could not reasonably have thought that the offer contained the offeror’s real intention.
  • This was evidenced by the pre-sale negotiations and generally expected behaviour in the industry.


  • ” I am satisfied, however, from the evidence given to me, that the plaintiff must have realised, and did in fact know, that a mistake had occurred. What did he do? Mr Hartog put it forward as being a bona fide act on his part that he at once went to Mr Caytan and entered into a contract with him. I am not sure that it points to a bona fide act at all.” (Singleton J)
  • ” The offer was wrongly expressed, and the defendants by their evidence, and by the correspondence, have satisfied me that the plaintiff could not reasonably have supposed that that offer contained the offerers’ real intention. Indeed, I am satisfied to the contrary. That means that there must be judgment for the defendants.” (Singleton J)

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