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

Facts

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.

Issues

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

Arguments

Carbolic argued that the advertisement was mere puffery.

Holding

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

Reasons

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.

Comments

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

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