Parker v South Eastern Railway [1877]

Parker v South Eastern Railway [1877]

Parker v South Eastern Railway [1877] is a landmark English contract law case on exclusion clauses. The court ruled that an individual cannot avoid a contractual term by failing to read it, but a party wishing to rely on an exclusion clause must take reasonable steps to bring it to the customer's attention.

Mr Parker left a bag in the cloakroom of Charing Cross railway station operated by the South Eastern Railway Company. After paying two pence, he received a ticket with the words "see back". The back of the ticket contained an exclusion clause exempting the railway from liability for items worth £10 or more. Mr Parker, not reading the clause, believed the ticket was only a receipt of payment. His bag, valued at over £10, was lost, leading him to sue the company.

In the Divisional Court, Lord Coleridge CJ, Brett J, and Lindley J ruled in favour of Mr Parker, upholding the jury award. Lindley J emphasised that, based on the jury's findings, it was immaterial whether the special terms were on the front or back of the ticket.

In the Court of Appeal, the majority held for a retrial, stating that if Mr Parker knew of the conditions, he would be bound. If unaware, he would still be bound if the ticket was given in a way constituting reasonable notice. Mellish LJ outlined the proper jury direction, distinguishing cases based on the person's knowledge of the writing on the ticket. Baggallay LJ concurred, predicting a jury decision in Mr Parker's favour. Bramwell LJ dissented, arguing that reasonable notice should be a question of law and would have favoured the railway company.

This case is significant for establishing the principle that individuals cannot avoid contractual terms by failing to read them. It emphasises the importance of reasonable notice for exclusion clauses, highlighting that if the customer is unaware of the conditions and the notice is not reasonable, the clause may not be binding. This case contributes to the broader understanding of how exclusion clauses are incorporated into contracts and the requirement of reasonable notice.
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