This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
It is no more judicial legislation than any of the other common-law rules on the subject of offer and acceptance which the courts have built up without either help or hindrance of legislation. The rule requiring actual communication of revocation has always been limited in its actual application to cases of offers to individual offerees; although the courts have frequently laid it down in broad terms without so limiting it.
Massachusetts. Braner v. Shaw, 168 Mass. 198, 60 Am. St. Rep. 387, 46 N. E. 617.
North Dakota. Starke v. Springgate, - N. D. - , L. R. A. 1918D, 728, 167 N. W. 221.
Washington. Malloy v. Drumheller, 68 Wash. 106, 122 Ac. 1005.
Wisconsin. Hodges v. Nalty, 113 Wis. 667, 89 N. W. 535.
2 See Sec. 198.
3 Watters v. Lincoln, 29 S. D. 98,185 N. W. 712.
4 Farmers' Handy Wagon Co. v. Newcomb, 192 Mich. 634, 159 N. W. 152.
5 Starks v. Springgate, - N. D. - , L. R. A. 1918D, 728, 167 N. W. 221.
1 Shney v. United States, 92 U. S. 73, 23 L. ed. 697.
2 Sullivan v. Phillips, 178 Ind. 164, 98 N. E. 868.
3 Pollock on Contracts (Williston's edition, p. 23).
Notice of revocation may be communicated to an authorized agent of the offeree.1 Notice of revocation of a gratuitous subscription may be communicated to the person who has the custody of such paper and who has secured the subscriptions on behalf of the offeree.2 Notice of revocation must, however, be given to one who represented the offeree in receiving such notice.3 If A has subscribed to a fund for building a church, and by reason of a quarrel within the church, A decides to revoke his offer, such a revocation is inoperative if it is communicated only to the priest of such church who, together with A, constitute the dissenting minority on the building committee.4
It has been said that it is not necessary that express notice of revocation effected by acts should be given by the offeror, if the offeree learns it from other sources.5 This principle was not involved in the cases in which it was announced. In one,6 A made an offer to B to sell certain land, and A promised to keep the offer open for a certain space of time. During such period, A entered into a contract with X, whereby A agreed to sell such land to X. That X knew of A's offer to B was assumed as a fact in the case. B heard of A's negotiations with X, but it was not shown how B's informant learned such facts, or what relation he bore to A or to B. B then attempted to accept A's offer, and sued for specific performance. The court placed its decision on the ground that B's knowledge of A's contract with X operated as a revocation of A's offer to B and declined to discuss the other ground on which the case might have been decided: namely that since X made the first contract with A. B could not have specific performance, whatever his remedies might be at law. In another case,7 A gave a written option for value to B upon certain realty. A then extended the time of such option orally and without consideration. During the period of such oral extension, A sold to X. B knew of such sale, and thereupon, B tried to accept A's offer and to enforce specific performance against A and X. While the court spoke of B's knowledge of A's sale to X as operating as a revocation of A's offer, B could not have enforced such contract if A had not sold to X and had not attempted to revoke such offer; since the written offer had lapsed, and oral evidence of an extension of such offer could not be used under the statute of frauds.8 The result in each of these cases would therefore have been the same if the court had held that the offer was not revoked.
1 American Life Ins. Co. v. Melcher, 132 Ta. 324, 109 N. W. 805.
2 American Life Ins. Co. v. Melcher, 132 la. 324, 109 N. W. 805.
3 Hodges v. Nalty, 113 Wis. 567, 89 N. W. 535. .
4 Hodges v. Nalty, 113 Wis. 567, 89 N. W. 535.
5 Dickinson v. Dodds, 2 Ch. Div. 463; Coleman v. Applegarth, 68 Md. 21, 6 Am. St. Rep. 417, 11 Atl. 284.
6 Dickinson v. Dodds, 2 Ch. Div. 463.
7 Coleman v. Applegarth, 68 Md. 21, 6 Am. St. Rep. 417, 11 Atl. 284.
The relation of the parties to the transaction would be material in such cases. If the offeror or his authorized agents gives notice to the offeree or to his authorized agent, of acts of the offeror which are inconsistent with the continued existence of the offer, such notice would be as effectual a method of communicating revocation of the offer as could be employed, even if the offeror did not say in express terms that he revoked the offer. If the offeree, on the other hand, hears a rumor to the effect that the offeror has done, or intends to do, some act which is inconsistent with the continued existence of the offer, and such rumor comes to him from third persons who are neither parties to the contract, nor agents of the parties, no legal principle would seem to require the offeree to investigate such rumor, or to be affected thereby as with official notice of revocation. The intermediate case is the doubtful one. The offeree may receive information that an act has been done by the offeror which is inconsistent with the continued existence of the offer; and he may receive it in such a way that he knows that it is true. It might be contended that such knowledge should supply the want of notice; and on the other hand, it might be contended that an offer can be revoked only by the offeror and not by third persons. Such analogies as we have in the topic of mistake would forbid the offeree from accepting an offer which he knew that the offeror had withdrawn; and from taking advantage of the fact that the offeror had forgotten to give formal notice of such revocation.