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Facts[]

Both plaintiffs checked their luggage on a train – paid £2 and received a ticket. On the back of the ticket were clauses – one said that the company would not be responsible for any package exceeding the value of £10. Both plaintiffs' bags were lost – both claimed amounts over £10. At trial, a jury found the plaintiffs were not under any obligation to check the back of the conditions and awarded them the amounts claimed. The defendant appealed.

Issue[]

  1. Did the Plaintiff read or was he aware of the special condition upon which the articles were deposited?
  2. Was the Plaintiff, under the circumstances, obligated in the exercise of reasonable and proper caution to read and make himself aware of the condition?

Decision[]

New trial ordered to determine whether the plaintiffs received reasonable notice of the conditions.

Reasons[]

Mellish, writing for the majority, states that there is no definite law in situations like this, for it depends on the specific circumstances. In regards to the obligations of the Plaintiff: If the guy took the ticket and did not see that there was writing, then he would not be bound to the condition. If the guy took the ticket knowing that there was writing on it but failed to read it because he had no reason to believe it would contain any type of legal conditions, then he would not be bound to the condition. But if the guy took the ticket knowing that there was writing on it that was likely to include legal conditions, and he chose not to read it, then he is bound by the condition. In regards to the obligations of the railway company: “The railway company must take mankind as they find them." If their actions are sufficient to inform people in general that the ticket contains conditions, then regardless of the ignorance or carelessness of the plaintiff, he would be bound by the conditions. But if the railway company’s actions are not sufficient to convey to the minds of people in general that the ticket contains conditions, then have not obtained consent of the persons depositing items to be bound by the conditions.

He determines that the jury in the original trial was given incorrect instructions about the proper legal issues. (The trial judge had advised the jury to determine whether the Plaintiff had been under any obligation to read the writing on the ticket; Mellish says that the real question was whether the railway company did what was reasonably sufficient to to give the Plaintiff notice of the condition). Thus the judge states that a new trial must be awarded and the jury must determine if there was reasonable notice that the writing contained conditions.


Ratio[]

If a plaintiff does not see writing that contains "conditions" of the contract and no reasonable effort was made to ensure he was aware of it, then he is not bound by its terms; if he does see it and either does not read it, or does not think that it contains conditions, then he will be bound by its terms so long as the defendant delivered it in a manner that gave him reasonable notice that there were conditions on the ticket.

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