Couchman v Hill [1947]

Couchman v Hill [1947] KB 554 is a noteworthy English contract law case that establishes a principle regarding the incorporation of statements as terms in a contract, particularly when one party provides information not within the knowledge of the other party.

In the case, Couchman, the buyer, acquired a pregnant cow from Hill, the seller, who explicitly stated that the cow was a heifer, meaning a female cow that had not yet borne a calf. Subsequently, the cow died due to complications related to pregnancy, leading the buyer to bring a legal action for breach of contract.

The Court of Appeal, in delivering its judgment, held that the seller was indeed liable for the breach of contract. Scott LJ, in his reasoning, emphasised the significance of the description of the cow as a heifer, considering it to be a term of the contract. According to Scott LJ, this description constituted a substantial ingredient in defining the identity of the sold item—the cow. Importantly, the condition of the cow, being pregnant, was within the knowledge of the seller.

This case underscores the principle that when one party provides information regarding a fact that should be within their knowledge but is not within the knowledge of the other party, such a statement is likely to be incorporated as a term in the contract. In this case, the accuracy of the description—whether the cow was a heifer—was deemed essential to the identity of the subject matter of the contract, leading to the seller's liability for breach of contract.
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