Case Summary: Carlill vs. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company

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Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

Full Case Name: Louisa Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company

Date Decided: 8th December 1892

Citations: [1892] EWCA Civil 1, [1893] 1 QB 256

Judges: Lindley LJ, Bowen LJ And AL Smith LJ

Prior Actions: Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co [1892] 2 QB 484

Defendant: Carbolic Smoke Ball Company

Brief Facts Summary:  The plaintiff believing the advertisement in a newspaper stating the use of the smoke ball would prevent the influenza and flu. She used the smoke ball as prescribed in the advertisement for some time and still had an attack of influenza. She filed the suit for 100£ as mentioned in the advertisement.

Facts: The defendant, Carbolic Smoke Ball Company placed an advertisement in several newspapers on November 13, 1891 of their product which if used 3 times daily for 2 weeks would prevent the flu (a pandemic during 1889-90 which had taken around 1 million lives at that time) and influenza. And also the makers of the product additionally offered a 100£ reward to anyone who would get flu or influenza after using their product as prescribed with a prescription supplied with the ball by stating that they had deposited 1000£ just for the reward and thus leading the people to buy their product.

The plaintiff, Louis Carlill after seeing the above-mentioned advertisement in one of the newspapers bought the smoke ball and started using it from November 20, 1891 until January 17, 1892 exactly as prescribed in printed prescription supplied with the ball. But she had an influenza attack later.

Issues: Lindley JJ on behalf of the court of appeal, noted that the main question at the hand was whether the promise mentioned in the advertisement of a reward of 100£ was meant to be an expressed promise or just a sales puff to lead people into buying their product.

Judgement: The appeal was dismissed unanimously and thus held that the contract between the company and the plaintiff was a valid contract.

Some of the main reasons behind the judgement :

  • The offer mentioned in the advertisement was a unilateral offer.
  • The use of the smoke ball as prescribed in the advertisement was an implication of acceptance of offer.
  • The company’s claim of depositing 1000£ at Alliance Bank showed seriousness to keep the promise.     
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