In this case the request was express, but sometimes it is implied by law, as in the case where the plaintiff has been compelled to do what the defendant was legally bound to do. Take the ordinary case of a carrier, who, by mistake, delivers some goods to C. which were intended for B., and which C. has wrongfully appropriated. In this case the carrier may be obliged to pay damages by way of compensation to B.; but is entitled to recover the amount from C. Another instance is that of a lady who owes her dressmaker an account which is paid by a friend, whereupon she promises to refund her friend the money.
A request and promise may be presumed where the promiser adopts the benefit of the consideration. Thus, if a tradesman sends you a quantity of things which you have not ordered, but have no objection to keep, the law presumes that you asked him to send them, and that having kept them, you promised to pay for them.
A merely moral obligation will not support a promise; but a moral obligation which was once a legal one will. Therefore, if a person chooses to promise to pay a debt which is barred by the Statute of Limitations, the promise will be binding. A parent is not under any legal obligation to pay debts incurred by his child; tradespeople generally imagine that children stand upon the same footing as a wife, but it is not so. A wife, however, may be authorised by her position to bind her husband to pay for necessities supplied to the children committed to her charge. Medical practitioners may recover their fees, provided they prove upon the trial that they are registered.
Contracts with Associations
There are all sorts of voluntary associations which, being unincorporated and not being partnerships, cannot, from a strictly legal point of view, enter into any legal contract. Take, for instance, a club, which is neither a partnership nor an association for gain; the distinguishing feature of a club is that its members have no power to bind one another by contracts entered into on behalf of the club, and incur no liability to anyone beyond the amount of the subscription. It is true that the committee have power to enter into contracts on behalf of the club, but only as to bind the funds of the club; they have no power to pledge the credit of members, nor does membership of the committee in itself involve liability on such contracts. Where goods have been supplied to a club, the only persons who can be made liable on the contract are the persons who actually gave the order, or who, either ex-oressly or impliedly, authorised the giving of the order, or who ratified it after it had been given.
A cricket or football club is in the same position as a social or political club with regard to contracts made on its behalf.
Charitable institutions, such as hospitals and societies like the Thimble League, are on the same footing. Building societies are a little different, because all the members are principals and the directors are their agents.
Then there are voluntary associations for temporary purposes only formed for carrying out functions of a social character - as, for example, a committee for a regatta, a public dinner, a subscription dance, a whist drive, or for the local celebration of events of national importance, such as the Coronation of his Majesty King George V. These differ from clubs to this extent, that after the purpose has been carried out they cease to exist. They cannot either sue or be sued on contracts made in their name; but in practice the members of the acting committee make themselves personally liable for carrying the scheme into effect; the members of the provisional committee, who merely lend their names, probably incur no liability.
In any case, if the creditor looks for payment to a particular fund, he can only have recourse to that fund, and cannot make the members liable on the contract. The minister of a Baptist church, appointed by the deacons at a weekly salary, could not make them liable for payment of his salary where he looked for payment to a fund subscribed by the congregation.
A mere statement of a person's intention or a declaration of willingness to enter into negotiations is not an offer, and cannot be made into a binding contract. A statement by B. to the father of A. that he would give L100 to the man who married his daughter with his consent was held not to be an offer, and a letter written by a father to the man who was about to marry his daughter saying that she would have a share of what he left after the death of her mother was held to amount merely to a statement of his intention to give her something at-his death.
An announcement that a competition will be held is not an offer of the prize to the competitor who obtains the highest marks. A promise to "consider favourably" an application for the renewal of a contract does not amount to a binding agreement. The engagement of an actress at a salary to be agreed upon is not a binding contract until the salary is settled.
Although railway companies generally give notice that they do not warrant the departure or arrival of the trains at the times specified in their time-tables, an announcement that a train will start at a particular time may be so framed as to bind the company, if a passenger takes a ticket on the faith of such announcement.
An offer must be made by a definite person, but. may be made to an indefinite number of persons. For example, an advertisement of a reward to be paid to any person who will give certain information to the advertiser is made to the world at large, and can be accepted by anyone who gives the required information. An offer of a sum of money to any person who should contract a disease after using a certain remedy for a specified time was accepted by a person who, after using the remedy for that time, contracted the disease.
An offer may be revoked at any time before it has been accepted, provided that the revocation is made known to the person to whom the offer was made. Acceptance by Post
An offer made by letter may be accepted by letter, and is complete as soon as a properly addressed letter containing the acceptance is posted; and the person who makes the offer is bound by the acceptance, although the letter conveying the acceptance is lost in the post, or its delivery is delayed, or the letter is returned to the acceptor, owing to a mistake in the address caused by the person who made the offer.
In mercantile transactions an offer must, as a rule, be accepted by return of post or by a letter posted on the day on which the offer was made. Where acceptance is to be made "by return of post," it may be made by telegram or telephone or otherwise. An offer by reply-paid telegram is only a request for a prompt reply.
In a Scotch case it was decided that where a letter of acceptance and a subsequent letter revoking the acceptance were delivered simultaneously by the post-office to the person who made the offer there was no concluded contract.
An offer by telegram is evidence that a prompt reply is expected, and an acceptance by letter may be evidence of such unreasonable delay as to justify a withdrawal of the offer.
The death of the proposer before acceptance effects a revocation of the offer. Signature to Contract
A right of action on a contract under seal lasts for twenty years, but the period of limitation for a simple contract is six years, unless the time is extended by the defendant admitting the existence of the contract during the six years.
Although the mere signing of a contract does not necessarily imply consent, the onus will be on the person who signed it to prove that his signature was due to a mistake, not involving negligence on his part, or was obtained from him by fraud, or by the exercise of undue influence, or by misrepresentations not amounting to fraud, or by duress.