In Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (1893), the defendant placed an advert in the newspaper stating that the Smoke Ball Co. would pay anyone £100 if they caught influenza after using their smoke balls in the prescribed manner for two weeks. In order to show their sincerity, the Smoke Ball Co. had deposited £1000 in their bank account.
The plaintiff used the smoke balls in the prescribed manner and after two weeks, she caught influenza. The plaintiff sued.
The defendant argued that is was not possible to make an offer to the world at large. It was held that it is in fact quite possible to make an offer to the world at large.
An offer is an expression of a willingness to enter into a contract in accordance with the specified terms, and the Smoke Ball Co. depositing £1000 in their bank account indicated their willingness to be bound by the terms. Mrs. Carlill in purchasing the smoke balls and using them in the manner that had been prescribed had accepted the offer.
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