Brief of Byrne & Co v. Van Tienhoven & Co

Brief of Byrne & Co v. Van Tienhoven & Co by Legum

Byrne & Co v Leon Van Tienhoven & Co [1880] 5 CPD 344:

Material Facts:

The defendant, Van Tien Hoven, posted a letter on 1st October to the plaintiff, Byrne, offering to sell 1000 boxes of tin plates. Due to usual delays in delivery, the plaintiffs received the offer on the 11th and accepted it by telegram on the same day, and by letter on the 15th. On 8th October, however, the defendant posted another letter revoking the offer to sell. The defendant refused to sell after receiving the plaintiff’s acceptance letter, claiming that the offer was revoked.


1. Whether a withdrawal of an offer has any effect until it is communicated to the person to whom the offer has been sent?

2. Whether posting a letter of withdrawal is a communication to the person to whom the letter is sent?


1. It was held that the withdrawal of the offer by the defendant had no effect because the contract was concluded on the 11th.

2. It was held that merely posting a letter of withdrawal does not constitute communication of withdrawal.

Ratio Decidendi:

The court stated that “…a state of mind not notified cannot be regarded in dealings between man and man; and that an uncommunicated revocation is for all practical purposes and in point of law no revocation at all.” The court reasoned that if the defendant’s contention that posting the letter of revocation amounted to the communication of revocation, “no person who had received an offer by post and had accepted it would know his position until he had waited such a time as to be quite sure that a letter withdrawing the offer had not been posted before his acceptance of it.”


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