Hartog v Colin & Shields

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Hartog v Colin & Shields
Court High Court
Decided 27 June 1939
Citation(s) [1939] 3 All ER 566
Case opinions
Singleton J
Mistake - Price of subject-matter of transaction - Goods offered at certain prices per pound instead of per piece - Offeree's knowledge of mistake - Whether acceptance of such offer a binding contract.

Hartog v Colin & Shields [1939] 3 All ER 566 is an important English contract law case regarding unilateral mistake. It holds that when it is obvious that someone has made a mistake in the terms of an offer, one may not simply "snap up" the offer and be able to enforce the agreement.


The defendants, Colin & Shields,[1] were London hide merchants. Mr Louis-Levie Hartog was a Belgian furrier, living in Brussels. Colin & Shields discussed selling Mr Hartog 30,000 Argentinian hare skins at “10d per skin” (which would have come to £1,250). When they put the final offer in writing Colin & Shields mistakenly wrote “30,000 skins @ 10d per lb”. As hare skins weigh around 5oz, this was a third of the price previously discussed and orally agreed upon.

Mr Hartog tried to hold them to this very good offer. He claimed loss of profit, or, in the alternative, the difference between the contract price and the market price at the time of the breach. Colin & Shields pleaded that their offer was by mistake wrongly expressed. They alleged that they had intended to offer the goods sold at certain prices per piece, and not at those prices per pound, as their offer was expressed. They argued Mr Hartog was well aware of this mistake on their part, and fraudulently accepted an offer which he well knew that the defendants had never intended to make. In the circumstances, the defendants denied that any binding contract was entered into, and, if there was, counterclaimed for its rescission.


The judge found in Colin & Shields’ favour on the grounds that the plaintiff must have realised the defendants’ error, which, as it concerned a term of the contract, rendered the contract void. Singleton J read the following judgment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colin & Shields was founded in 1921. In the 1970s the firm was absorbed into Dalgety plc.