Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co.

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Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co.
Court England and Wales Court of Appeal
Citation 1 Q.B. 256
Date decided December 8, 1892


Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. ("Carbolic") released a product that, when ignited, produced carbolic acid smoke.

Defendant's 1891 advertisement said that if a user of its medicinal product got sick after properly using it, Defendant ("Carbolic) would pay £100 to the sick person.

Procedural History

Plaintiff ("Carlill") got the flu after using the smoke ball ; so, she sued for the money damages.

The trial judge awarded Carlill £100.


Can an advertisement offering a specified sum form a binding contract?


Carbolic argued that the advertisement was mere puffery.


The company's advertisement constituted an offer. The offer was accepted by Mrs. Carlill. Consequently, she is entitled to the £100.


The offer was similar to a reward (unilateral contract).

performance = acceptance.

notice was properly given to Defendant of performance.

There was consideration:

Defendant got its product used.

Plaintiff was inconvenienced while inhaling the smoke.


  • In the late 1800s, using the smoke ball of carbolic acid to protect oneself against influenza was a scam.