Contract Mistakes in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Bell v Lever Bros Ltd
    • House of Lords
    • 15 Diciembre 1931

    Corresponding to mistake as to the existence of the subject matter is mistake as to title in cases where unknown to the parties the buyer is already the owner of that which the seller purports to sell to him. To such a case Lord Westbury applied the principle that if parties contract under a mutual mistake and misapprehension as to their relative and respective rights the result is that the agreement is liable to be set aside as having proceeded upon a common mistake.

    They can be supported on the ground that it is of paramount importance that contracts should be observed: and that if parties honestly comply with the essentials of the formation of contratcs, i.e., agree in the same terms on the same subject matter, they are bound: and must rely on the stipulations of the contract for protection from the effect of facts unknown to them.

    "In the contemplation of both parties fundamental to the continued validity of the contract," "a foundation essential to its existence," "a fundamental reason for making it" are phrases found in the important judgment of Scrutton L.J. in the present case. Nothing is more dangerous than to allow oneself liberty to construct for the parties contracts which they have not in terms made by importing implications which would appear to make the contract more businesslike or more just.

  • Great Peace Shipping Ltd v Tsavliris Salvage (International) Ltd (Cape Providence)
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 14 Octubre 2002

    Mistakes have relevance in the law of contract in a number of different circumstances. They may prevent the mutuality of agreement that is necessary for the formation of a contract. It may be that each party mistakenly believes that he has entered into such a contract in circumstances where an objective appraisal of the facts reveals that no agreement has been reached as to the terms of the contract.

    (i) there must be a common assumption as to the existence of a state of affairs; (ii) there must be no warranty by either party that that state of affairs exists; (iii) the non-existence of the state of affairs must not be attributable to the fault of either party; (iv) the non-existence of the state of affairs must render performance of the contract impossible; (v) the state of affairs may be the existence, or a vital attribute, of the consideration to be provided or circumstances which must subsist if performance of the contractual adventure is to be possible.

  • Statoil ASA v Louis Dreyfus Energy Services L P
    • Queen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
    • 29 Septiembre 2008

    The general rule at common law is that if one party has made a mistake as to the terms of the contract and that mistake is known to the other party, then the contract is not binding. The reasoning is that although the parties appear, objectively, to have agreed terms, it is clear that they are not in agreement. Some of the cases talk of such a contract being “void”, but I think it is clearer to say that there was never a contract at all.

  • Dana Gas PJSC (a company incorporated under the laws of the United Arab Emirates) v Dana Gas Sukuk Ltd and Others
    • Queen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
    • 17 Noviembre 2017

    Where this leaves the common law doctrine of mistake, as it seems to me, is as follows. First, the doctrine is not based on an inquiry into the subjective beliefs of the parties but on an objective analysis of what they agreed. Second, the doctrine does not rest on the notion that the parties have impliedly agreed what is to happen in the event that an assumption underlying the contract proves to be false. It does, however, involve a question of construction of the contract.

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  • Health and Social Care Act 2012
    • UK Non-devolved
    • 1 de Enero de 2012
    ... ... mentioned in this subsection are—(a) a general medical services contract to provide primary medical services of a prescribed description,(b) ... 19(3)(4) (with regs. 13, 29, 30) ... 127: Correction of mistakes ... (1) This section applies where the national tariff contains ... ...
  • Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
    • UK Non-devolved
    • 1 de Enero de 1988
    ... ... (10) To the extent that a term of a contract purports to prevent or restrict the making of a copy which, by virtue of ... the comptroller under section 117(1) below to correct errors or mistakes with respect to the filing of drawings..(2) The above amendment applies ... ...
  • Housing Act 1988
    • UK Non-devolved
    • 1 de Enero de 1988
    ... ... Housing Act 1996 comes into force (otherwise than pursuant to a contract made before that day) , or ... (b) comes into being by virtue of section ... Act (amendment or withdrawal and re-service of notice to correct mistakes) ... (5) Expressions used in subsection (4) above have the same meaning ... ...
  • County Court Rules 1981
    • UK Non-devolved
    • 1 de Enero de 1981
    ... ... (b) is founded on a contract for the sale or hire of goods under which the purchase price or rental is ... Clerical mistakes and errors ... 5. Clerical mistakes in judgments or orders or errors ... ...
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Books & Journal Articles
  • Catharine MacMillan, MISTAKES IN CONTRACT LAW Oxford: Hart Publishing (, 2010. xxv + 322 pp. ISBN 9781841135076. £50.
    • No. , May 2011
    • Edinburgh Law Review
    • 318-319
  • Applying evidence-based HRM: the case of bonuses in the home furnishing industry
    • No. 2-2, October 2014
    • Evidence-based HRM: a Global Forum for Empirical Scholarship
    • 192-208
    Purpose: – In the home furnishing industry outside contract installers produce higher quality work than in-house installers which is reflected in less revisits to customers to repair mistakes. Many...
    ... ... – In the home furnishing industry outside contract installers produce higher quality work thanin-house installers which is flected in less revisits to customers to repair mistakes. Many home furnishingretailers are therefore contemplating introducing so ... ...
  • Knowledge Management within the UK Oil Industry: A case study on Knowledge Management implementation within OILEX Ltd
    • No. 30-4, April 2000
    • VINE
    • 38-43
    A study was carried out at OILEX from September to November 1999 which examined the extent to which the organisation was capturing and sharing its knowledge and experience. Evidence suggested that ...
    ... ... the industry, falling recruitment, an ageing workforce and use of contract workers have all made an impact on sustaining knowledge and experience ... out and allows the whole organisation to learn from previous mistakes. Ultimately, such learning leads to greater efficiency and productivity ... ...
  • Contributors
    • Preliminary Sections
    • Dissenting Judgments in the Law
    • Neal Geach/Christopher Monaghan
    • 9-11
    ... ... Her research interests include contract and commercial law, particularly the modern historical development of ... Her publications include Mistakes in Contract Law (Hart Publishing, 2010) ... Tasmin Malcolm of Middle ... ...
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Law Firm Commentaries
  • The Insurance Act 2015: What You Need To Know
    • Mondaq UK
    ... ... , the most important change is the prohibition of 'basis' of the contract clauses, which previously had the effect that innocent mistakes could ... ...
  • Cryptocurrency Hacking Continues To Rise
    • Mondaq UK
    ... ... assets into a smart contract on the original chain and then minting ... equivalent assets on the second ... Such a practice, however, can be attractive to hackers. Any ... mistakes in the underlying smart contract code could be recognised ... and ... ...
  • Landlords And Tenants - Take Notice!
    • Mondaq UK
    ... ... how to draft and serve a notice in accordance with the underlying contract or statute, otherwise there could be serious (and unwanted) repercussions ... Courts construe notices strictly and are unlikely to excuse mistakes ... The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide ... ...
  • English Law – A Love Letter
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    ...English law is frequently chosen as the governing law of the contract in international transactions, even though neither party to the agreement ... The ability of English law to correct mistakes by construction ... Those who brand English law of contract ... ...
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