Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company (1893)


An advertisement amounted to an offer to the world which could be accepted by anyone who performed the conditions set out in it. The claimant did not have to notify the advertiser of her intention to accept the offer prior to her performance of the conditions.

The appellant company (B) appealed against a decision that it was liable for a claim for damages brought by the respondent (C).

B was the manufacturer of a medical preparation called the carbolic smoke ball, which was designed to prevent the user from contracting flu. B placed an advertisement in newspapers which stated that a reward of £100 would be paid to anyone who contracted flu or a cold after using the smoke ball three times per day for two weeks according to the directions supplied with each ball. The advertisement further stated that B had deposited £1,000 with a named bank to show the sincerity of its offer. C purchased a ball in reliance on B's advert and used it as directed but contracted flu whilst using it.

B argued that its advertisement did not amount to a contractually binding promise as it was addressed to the world in general, it was too vague, and was not limited by time. B further argued that if the advert was an offer, C had not communicated her intention to accept it.

Held: Appeal dismissed.

The advertisement stated that £1,000 was lodged at a bank. Therefore it could not be said that the statement that £100 would be paid…


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