It occasionly happens that an offer is not delivered to the offeree until a later time than might have been expected by the offeror. The delay may even be so great that at the time the offer is first delivered to the offeree, more than a reasonable time for the acceptance of the offer would already have elapsed, had the offer been promptly delivered. If the offer contains on its face a limitation of the right to accept to a specific day or hour, it is clear that if this day or hour has passed no effectual acceptance can be made. The offer may, however, merely direct that the acceptance must be returned by return mail or in course of post; or, may contain no express provision as to the time of acceptance. In such a case, if the acceptance is dispatched by a return mail, or in course of post, or within a reasonable time after the receipt of the offer, a contract will be formed, provided the offeree was not aware of the delay in the delivery of the offer.5
If, however, the offeree knew, or ought to know that the offer had been delayed, he should not be allowed to take advantage of the error, even though it was due to the negligence of the offeror; and if when the offer is received it is impossible to dispatch an acceptance within the time that would have been allowed had the offer been promptly received, no contract can be formed.6
2 See infra, Sec. 254.
3 Beach v. First M. E. Church, 96 111. 177.
4 See infra, Sec.Sec. 250-254.
5 Adams v. Lindsell, 1 B. & Ald. 681. In this case an offer was misdirected and, consequently, arrived a day or two later than if correctly addressed. The offer required an answer in course of post, and the offeree promptly, on receipt of the offer, accepted it. The court held that as the delay in the acceptance arose entirely from the mistake of the offeror, the acceptance must be taken as received in course of post. Chesebrough c. Western Union Tel. Co., 135 N. Y. Supp. 583, 76 N. Y. Misc. 516. In this case a telegraphic offer was delayed, by fault of the telegraph company, for an hour. The consequence of this short delay was that when a telegraphic acceptance, promptly sent, was received by the offeror (ft coffee broker) the coffee exchange had closed. It was held that a contract had been formed.
6 Though no case involving these precise facte have been found, the text is supported by decisions holding that in any case where an obvious mistake has been made in the terms of an offer, the acceptor will not be allowed to force a contract on the offeror which the acceptor knew wan not intended. Tamplin v. James, 16 Ch. D. 212; Germain Fruit Co. v. Western Union Tel. Co., 137 Cal. 698, 70 Pac. 658, 59 L. R. A. 575; Cunningham Mfg. Co. v. Rotograph Co., 30 Dist. C. App. 624; Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Gortstowaky, 123 Ga. 366, 51 S. E 469.