Scriven Bros and Co v Hindley and Co [1913]

Scriven Bros and Co v Hindley and Co [1913] 3 KB 564 revolved around contract formation, mutual mistake, and the absence of a meeting of the minds between the parties involved.

The complainants, Scriven Bros and Co, engaged an auctioneer to conduct the sale of large bales of tow and hemp on their behalf. However, the bales were packaged similarly, and the samples presented during the auction were not easily distinguishable, creating confusion. The defendants, Hindley and Co, mistakenly believed they were bidding for two lots of hemp when, in reality, one of the lots consisted of tow. Despite the overpriced bid, the complainants accepted it. Upon discovering the error, the defendants refused to pay for the lot, leading to legal action by the complainants to recover the price.

The core issue before the court was whether a valid contract existed between the parties or if the contract should be considered void due to a mutual mistake regarding the subject matter. The court ruled that there was no binding contract between the complainant and the defendant. This conclusion stemmed from faults on both sides, indicating a lack of consensus ad idem or a meeting of the minds essential for a contract.

The court emphasised that the complainants failed to make the hemp and tow samples adequately distinguishable, contributing to the confusion. Additionally, the defendants were negligent in not bringing a catalogue to the auction and not thoroughly inspecting the samples before placing their bid. The court deemed the defendant's negligence as a contributing factor to the mistakes made by the complainant, reinforcing the absence of a mutual understanding between the parties necessary for a valid contract.

In summary, this case illustrates the importance of a clear consensus ad idem in contract formation. The court's decision highlighted the shared responsibility for the confusion and errors, leading to the determination that no binding contract existed between the parties in this case.
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