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Cover Contract Law Directions

8. Mistake  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. Questions, diagrams and exercises help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress. This chapter discusses the various ways of classifying mistakes including communication mistakes, mistakes of fact, common mistake and unilateral mistake. It then looks at the case law on mistaken identity and the distinctions between face-to-face and correspondence contracts. Finally, it looks at the restrictive rules on common mistake, including the difference between fundamental mistake and mistake as to quality, and their relationship with the doctrine of frustration and the demise of the category of equitable mistake.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law Directions

8. Mistake  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. Questions, diagrams and exercises help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress. This chapter discusses the various ways of classifying mistakes including communication mistakes, mistakes of fact, common mistake and unilateral mistake. It then looks at the case law on mistaken identity and the distinctions between face-to-face and correspondence contracts. Finally, it looks at the restrictive rules on common mistake, including the difference between fundamental mistake and mistake as to quality, and their relationship with the doctrine of frustration and the demise of the category of equitable mistake.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

8. Mistake  

Robert Merkin, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas on the law curriculum. This chapter focuses on the legal treatment of ‘mistake’. It considers mistakes that prevent agreement (mutual or cross-purposes mistakes and unilateral mistake as to terms, particularly identity mistakes). It also examines the remedy of rectification when the contract does not accurately reflect what the parties agreed. It also considers the defence of non est factum. It then considers mistakes that are presumed to nullify consent if both parties entered into the contract under the same fundamental mistake. The doctrine of common mistake in English law is designed to protect the interests of third parties and to ensure certainty in transactions. A fundamental common mistake arises in cases where there is true impossibility or failure of consideration; the contract is automatically void and any money or property involved has to be returned. Distinctions can arise depending upon whether the impossibility is initial (common mistake) or subsequent (frustration doctrine). Categories of common mistake at common law include mistake as to subject matter (res extincta) and mistake as to ownership (res sua). A mistake as to quality will rarely be sufficiently fundamental to render the contract void. This chapter also discusses Lord Denning’s attempts to introduce an equitable jurisdiction to set aside on terms in cases of mistakes as to quality. These were rejected in Great Peace Shipping Ltd v Tsavliris (International) Ltd meaning that there is no remedial flexibility in such instances.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

8. Mistake  

Robert Merkin KC, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas of the law curriculum. This chapter focuses on the legal treatment of ‘mistake’. It considers mistakes that prevent agreement (mutual or cross-purposes mistakes and unilateral mistake as to terms, particularly identity mistakes). It also examines the remedy of rectification when the contract does not accurately reflect what the parties agreed. It also considers the defence of non est factum. It then considers mistakes that are presumed to nullify consent if both parties entered into the contract under the same fundamental mistake. The doctrine of common mistake in English law is designed to protect the interests of third parties and to ensure certainty in transactions. A fundamental common mistake arises in cases where there is true impossibility or failure of consideration; the contract is automatically void and any money or property involved has to be returned. Distinctions can arise depending upon whether the impossibility is initial (common mistake) or subsequent (frustration doctrine). Categories of common mistake at common law include mistake as to subject matter (res extincta) and mistake as to ownership (res sua). A mistake as to quality will rarely be sufficiently fundamental to render the contract void. This chapter also discusses Lord Denning’s attempts to introduce an equitable jurisdiction to set aside on terms in cases of mistakes as to quality. These were rejected in Great Peace Shipping Ltd v Tsavliris (International) Ltd meaning that there is no remedial flexibility in such instances.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

8. Mistake  

Robert Merkin and Séverine Saintier

Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. This chapter considers the area of ‘mistake’. The law distinguishes between several types of mistake. Some mistakes (‘agreement mistakes’) prevent formation of an agreement. These mistakes are mutual mistakes (where the parties are at cross purposes) and unilateral mistakes (where one party is mistaken and the other knows or ought to know this, e.g. unilateral mistake as to identity). The chapter also looks at document mistakes and specifically rectification of a written document to reflect accurately what the parties in fact agreed, and the plea of non est factum (‘this is not my deed’). Finally, a contract having no contractual allocation of risk and made under the same mistaken assumption may be void for ‘common mistake’ if the mistake is so fundamental that it ‘nullifies’ consent. This is known as ‘initial impossibility’ because the impossibility already exists when the parties agree to the contract. This chapter deals with common mistake and initial impossibility, contractual risk allocation, and the theoretical basis for the doctrine of common mistake. It discusses categories of fundamental common mistake, including res extincta, and assesses the legal effects of mistakes as to quality made by both parties. The chapter concludes by considering the relationship between common mistake and frustration.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

8. Mistake  

Robert Merkin KC, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. This chapter considers the area of ‘mistake’. The law distinguishes between several types of mistake. Some mistakes (‘agreement mistakes’) prevent formation of an agreement. These mistakes are common mistakes (where the parties are at cross-purposes) and unilateral mistakes (where one party is mistaken and the other knows or ought to know this, e.g. unilateral mistake as to identity). The chapter also looks at document mistakes and specifically rectification of a written document to reflect accurately what the parties in fact agreed, and the plea of non est factum (‘this is not my deed’). Finally, a contract having no contractual allocation of risk and made under the same mistaken assumption may be void for ‘common mistake’ if the mistake is so fundamental that it ‘nullifies’ consent. This is known as ‘initial impossibility’ because the impossibility already exists when the parties agree to the contract. This chapter deals with common mistake and initial impossibility, contractual risk allocation, and the theoretical basis for the doctrine of common mistake. It discusses categories of fundamental common mistake, including res extincta, and assesses the legal effects of mistakes as to quality made by both parties. The chapter concludes by considering the relationship between common mistake and frustration.