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Case Note: Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co

This case note comments on the decision of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co [1893] 1 QB 256. It examines whether any person who act upon the required conditions of a contract is legally bounded by this unilateral offer.

The significance of the case lies in the establishment of a precedent that an offer of contract can be unilateral and does not have to be made to a specific party. It also established that notification is not necessarily required in the acceptance of offers, and that once an individual meets the required conditions, the contract is activated.

The plaintiff is Mrs. Carlill and the defendant is Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, which is a company that sold carbolic smokeball, an influenza remedy. In a newspaper advertisement the defendant claimed that the people who contacted influenza after having used the smoke ball as directed in the advertisement would be rewarded £100. In order to show the sincerity of this offer, the defendants had deposited £1000 with the Alliance Bank. Believing so, the plaintiff bought and used the smokeball as directed, but soon after continuous usage of it she contracted influenza.

There are four main issues in this case, namely (1) whether the advertisement on the newspaper is an offer or a mere puff by the defendant, (2) and how can be distinguish an advertisement from a puff, (3) whether communication of acceptance is necessary in the formation of a contract, (4) whether an offer can be addressed to the whole world.

In determining whether a contract is concluded the courts look at two elements, namely offer and acceptance. In looking at the element of offer, if the defendant demonstrates an intention to be legally bound, then he is said to wish to enter into an agreement. This distinguishes an offer from a mere puff, of which indicates…...

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