Saturday, 20 March 2010

Law of Contract and Mistake

Obviously, contracts are agreements which are legally binding and, as such, enforceable in the courts.  Much of the law is concerned with how such contracts are formed (offer, acceptance, intent to form legal relations etc); what the terms of the contract are; factors which might "vitiate" what would otherwise be a valid contract (e.g. fraud, misrepresentation, illegality, mistake) and how a contract comes to an end (e.g. agreement, frustration, breach).

People entering agreements may make all sorts of mistakes.  "Mistake" may be a vitiating factor but not every mistake operates in this way.  John and James might enter into a contract for a "Constable" painting of Salisbury Catherdral when, in reality, it is not.  Such a mistake did not make the contract void in Leaf v International Galleries [1950] 2 KB 86.  After all, the parties contracted to buy and sell a picture!  The case law on mistake is considerable and the Lore to Law blog carries an interesting picture quiz relating to the cases.  Have a look !

Here is rather more detail on Leaf v International Galleries.  Held: No operative mistake but the painter's identity was held to be a "condition" of the contract.  Breach of a condition entitles the claimant to damages (not claimed in Leaf's case) or, in some instances, to rescind (put aside) the contract.  To rescind the contract Mr Leaf would have had to have acted in a timely manner but he had displayed the picture on his wall for 5 years before he found it was a fake.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written! Good for people who doesn't know law much.