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General Principle:

If, during negotiations for a sale, the vendor (person selling) gives a price they will sell at, that statement could be an offer that could then be accepted.


Bigg v Boyd Gibbins [1971] 2 All ER 183


Bigg v Boyd Gibbins concerned the sale of a property. In the course of negotiations, there was a letter from the seller (complainant) that said, “…Your offer of £20,000 is a little optimistic. For a quick sale, I would accept £26,000.” The defendant replied, “I accept your offer.” The last letter that the seller sent stated: “My wife and I are pleased that you are purchasing the property.”


The court held that there was a contract. An intention to be bound was essential and this was evident by what was said by the complainant in last two letters.


Intention to create legal relations can dictate whether a statement is an offer or an answer to a question.

Bigg v Boyd Gibbins [1971] 2 All ER 183


The primary concern for the judge was to determine whether or not there was enough communication between the parties to enable the construction of a legally binding agreement. The fact that there was very little contact between the parties was one of the issues that particularly concerned the court. In the event that a contractual agreement could be created, it was necessary for the court to determine whether or not an order of specific performance was warranted given the nature of the dispute. The appeal lodged by the defendant against the order for particular performance was overruled by the court, and Pennycuick V.C.'s ruling from the preliminary hearing was expanded upon by the court. The exchange of words between the parties was seen as constituting a legally enforceable contract for the acquisition of the property; hence, an order for equitable performance was in a position to be made. The court, after reading the letters, came to the conclusion that the parties would consider themselves to have reached an agreement about the sale and purchase of the property.

Bigg v Boyd Gibbins

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