Offord v Davies – 1862

April 01, 2024
Micheal James

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Introduction to Offord v Davies – 1862

Offord v Davies (1862) is a landmark case in English contract law concerning the formation of contracts, specifically the offer and acceptance process. It serves as a foundation for understanding the revocability of offers before acceptance. This case study delves into the details of the dispute, the legal question it raised, and its lasting impact on contract law.


The case involved a disagreement between Mr. Offord (plaintiff) and Mr. Davies (defendant) regarding a financial arrangement. Mr. Davies agreed to secure a loan of £800 for Mr. Offord at a discounted rate. This agreement, however, lacked certain formalities. While Mr. Davies did inform Mr. Offord of his intention to secure the loan, he did not immediately obtain it. Later, within the timeframe discussed for the loan (twelve months), Mr. Davies informed Mr. Offord that he was unable to secure the loan at the agreed-upon terms. This turn of events led Mr. Offord to take legal action against Mr. Davies.


The central legal question in Offord v Davies centered on the validity of Mr. Davies’ withdrawal:

  • Did Mr. Davies have the right to withdraw his offer to secure the loan before Mr. Offord formally accepted it?


The court delivered a judgment in favor of Mr. Davies (the defendant). They held that Mr. Davies’ offer to secure the loan was revocable since Mr. Offord had not yet formally communicated his acceptance.


The court’s decision focused on the principle that an offer remains open for acceptance only for a reasonable period or within a specified timeframe, if any. In this case, the court considered the following factors:

  • The absence of a formal acceptance from Mr. Offord. The agreement lacked a clear indication of Mr. Offord’s acceptance, leaving the offer unconfirmed.
  • The nature of the agreement. The court distinguished between unilateral contracts (a promise in exchange for an act) and bilateral contracts (an exchange of promises). In this case, the agreement was considered a bilateral contract, requiring mutual promises for its formation.
  • The twelve-month timeframe. While the agreement mentioned a twelve-month period, the court interpreted it as the timeframe within which Mr. Davies could secure the loan, not necessarily a fixed period for Mr. Offord’s acceptance.


Offord v Davies is a cornerstone case in contract law, establishing the critical principle that an offer can be withdrawn before acceptance unless:

  • The offer specifies a timeframe for acceptance, creating a binding obligation for the offeror (the person making the offer) to hold the offer open during that period.
  • The offer is a unilateral contract where the act of performance (e.g., starting the requested work) by the offeree (the person receiving the offer) constitutes acceptance. In such cases, the performance itself serves as the acceptance, potentially limiting the offeror’s ability to withdraw.


Offord v Davies remains a vital case in contract law. It clarifies the concept of offer revocability and the importance of timely acceptance. The case emphasizes that an offer, unless accompanied by specific conditions or a set timeframe for acceptance, can be withdrawn before the offeree formally accepts it.

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