Tamplin v. James (1880) 15 Ch D 215
James offered to sell a property through an auction. The property was described, and a plan or map was also provided that captured the limits of the property being offered for sale.
Tamplin, under the assumption that the property being sold included some other property (a garden that was adjacent to the actual property being sold), and without looking at the map or plan to satisfy himself that the garden was part of the property being sold, agreed to buy the property from James. Essentially, Tamplin relied on his own knowledge of the property and did not pay much attention to the description of the property or the plan of the property.
When Tamplin later discovered that the garden was not part of the property he agreed to buy, he refused to pay for it, and James brought an action against him for specific performance.
At the trial court (in James v. Tamplin), judgement was given in favour of the plaintiff (James). Tamplin is appealing against that decision.
The appellate judges reasoned that if a buyer does not take reasonable care to inspect what is being bought, he must suffer the consequences of his action. It was believed that an acceptance of the defence of a unilateral mistake by the buyer, especially if it is not contributed to by the seller, would open the door to fraud. Judge Brett LJ advanced that, though the defendant made a mistake, it was a mistake he made by not taking reasonable care.
After Tamplin agreed to buy the property, although he was mistaken about what the property was, he became bound to perform his part of the contract, which is paying for it. After James description of the property and Tamplin’s acceptance to buy it, a reasonable person is likely to conclude that Tamplin and James agreed that Tamplin would buy the property as described.