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Moulton v. Kershaw

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendants were salt dealers who wrote an offer to the Plaintiff to sell them fine salt.  Plaintiff wired acceptance to the Defendants upon receipt of the offer, and Defendants notified Plaintiff of their withdrawal the next day.   

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Advertisements are not offers. 

    Facts.

    The Defendants’ letter stated… “we are authorized to offer Michigan fine salt, in full car-load lots of 80 to 95 bbls. … at 85c per bbl.”  The Plaintiff’s wire stated: “Your letter of yesterday received and noted. You may ship to me two thousand barrels Michigan fine salt, as offered in your letter. Answer.”  The next day, Defendants notified Plaintiff of their withdrawl of the offering letter. 

    Plaintiffs sued for $800 in damages.  The trial court overruled the Defendants’ demurrer to the complaint, and Defendants appealed. 

    Issue.

    Did Appellants’ letter and the telegram sent in response give rise to a contract? 

    Held.

    No.  The demurrer should have been sustained. 

    Appellants claimed that their initial letter was not an offer to sell a specific quantity of salt, but merely a letter such as a business man would send out to those with whom he desired to trade, soliciting their patronage. 
    The word “sell” was not used in the letter, and it was clearly in the nature of an advertisement or business circular, rather than an offer. 

    Dissent.

    None.

    Concurrence.

    None.

    Discussion.

    The letter from the Defendants did not contain a specific quantity term, and was construed as an advertisement, rather than an offer that the Plaintiff could accept.  No contract was formed.


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