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Smith v Hughes Case Summary

Smith v Hughes (1870) LR QB 597

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Mr. Smith(Plaintiff) was a farmer and Mr. Hughes(Defendant) was a racehorse trainer. Mr. Smith brought Mr. Hughes a sample of his oats and as a consequence, Mr. Hughes ordered 40-50 quarters of oats from Mr. Smith. After that, 16 quarters of oats were sent to Mr. Hughes. When they arrived, he said that the oats were not what he had thought. As he was a racehorse trainer and he needed old oats, as this was the diet of horses. The oats that were sent to Mr. Hughes were green oats (“NEW OATS”). Mr. Hughes refused to pay Mr. Smith for the delivery and for the remaining order.

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  • Mr. Smith argued that Mr. Hughes had breached the contract as he had not paid for the delivery and future oats to be delivered.
  • The issue, in this case, was whether the contract can be avoided by Mr. Hughes, as Mr. Smith had not delivered the type of oats he had expected.
  • Could contract be avoided as Mr. Hughes had delivered the wrong type of oats?
  • According to Mr. Hughes, Mr. Smith described the oats as ‘good old oats’ but Mr. Smith denied the word ‘old’ had been used.

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  • Application of Contract law.
  • The contract between the parties.


  • It was held that there was a contract between Mr. Smith and Mr. Hughes and that they cannot avoid it.
  • There had been no discussion between the parties regarding the delivery of old oats.
  • An objective test revealed that an inexpensive person would expect the sale of excellent quality oats during a similar contract since there was no express discussion of old oats. The sample gave him the prospect to examine the oats.
  • This was an example of Caveat Emptor (BUYER MUST BE AWARE).

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Smith had not acknowledged the potential confusion to Hughes.

There was no reason to believe, from their communication, that Smith explicitly required old oats.

Affirmation of the principle of buyer beware, in which contractual agreements are objectively judged.

Meeting of the minds (also mentioned as mutual agreement, mutual assent, or consensus ad idem) may be a phrase in jurisprudence wont to describe the intentions of the parties forming the contract. In particular, it refers to things where there’s a standard understanding within the formation of the contract.

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Current Day Significance

When interpreting the contract and its terms, you would like to seem objectively at the conduct of the parties.

Must look at the conduct of parties of the contract

Note that the result of this case could also be suffering from modern consumer law.


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