In the first-instance judgment [1892] 2 Q.B. 484, Hawkins J wrote "The facts not being in dispute." But how could've Carbolic Smoke Ball Co trusted Ms Carlill's proper use? Perhaps she misused it, or lied about using it at all after buying it!

Mindy Chen-Wishart. Contract Law (2018 6 edn). p. 60.

An advertisement may also, exceptionally, be treated as an offer rather than an invitation to treat. In Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co (1893), the manufacturer advertised the ‘carbolic smoke ball’ and offered to pay £100 to anyone catching influenza after using it in the specified manner, adding that £1,000 had been deposited in the bank to show their ‘sincerity in the matter’. C successfully sued for £100 when she caught influenza after proper use of the smoke ball. The court rejected the manufacturer’s claim that the advertisement was too vague and not seriously made. The Court held that: (i) the advertisement was an offer to the whole world; and (ii) a unilateral contract (see 2.3.6) was made with those who met the condition ‘on the faith of the advertisement’.

Ewan McKendrick. Contract Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (2018 8 ed). p 55.

The defendants advertised their medicinal product, the now infamous ‘carbolic smoke ball’, in various newspapers in the following terms:

‘100l. reward will be paid by the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company to any person who contracts the increasing epidemic influenza, colds, or any disease caused by taking cold, after having used the ball three times daily for two weeks according to the printed directions supplied with each ball. 1000l. is deposited with the Alliance Bank, Regent Street, shewing our sincerity in the matter. During the last epidemic of influenza many thousand carbolic smoke balls were sold as preventives against this disease, and in no ascertained case was the disease contracted by those using the carbolic smoke ball. One carbolic smoke ball will last a family several months, making it the cheapest remedy in the world at the price, 10s., post free. The ball can be refilled at a cost of 5s. Address, Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, 27, Princes Street, Hanover Square, London.’

The plaintiff, in reliance upon this advertisement, purchased and used the product as directed but subsequently caught influenza. She sued for payment of the £100 and succeeded before Hawkins J. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal but the appeal was dismissed. It was held that the terms of the advertisement constituted an offer, the terms of which were accepted by the plaintiff with the result that she was entitled to recover the promised £100.

Bowen LJ [I skip the judgment extract.]


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    I presume "not in dispute" means the defendants chose not to dispute it. We don't know why not. But there would have been at least Ms. Carlill's own testimony that she used it correctly, and there could have been other evidence too, e.g. other family members who witnessed her using it. What evidence could the defendants possibly have offered to show that she didn't use it correctly? So they may have just felt this point of the case was a lost cause. Oct 29, 2019 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Saying “liar, liar pants on fire” is not admissible as evidence in court.

What evidence would they produce that she didn’t?

Carlill would presumably testify that she had followed the instructions and that she witnessed herself doing so. Carbolic would testify nothing. On the balance of probabilities, which evidence do you prefer?

Carbolic is not going to waste their or the courts time trying to prove something they can’t.

In most court cases, most facts are not in dispute.

  • That is a theory, but if they really wanted to win that case, they would at least try to find a way to show she did not use it correctly by questioning her etc.
    – Putvi
    Oct 29, 2019 at 20:57
  • @Putvi as I say “I put it to you that you are a liar” without some evidentiary basis (however framed) is not a cross-examination question that would withstand the inevitable objection
    – Dale M
    Oct 30, 2019 at 1:05
  • Even if you are objected to, the company is paying you to defend them and that would be all they could do without trying to invalidate the original guarantee.
    – Putvi
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:16
  • @Putvi the company is paying you to defend them intelligently and subject to your duty as an officer of the court. You don’t fight losing fights you don’t have to.
    – Dale M
    Oct 30, 2019 at 20:14
  • That's your only fight though if you are not going after the guarantee itself. I'm not saying it's likely to win. I agree with you on that, but if it's all you have...
    – Putvi
    Oct 30, 2019 at 20:16

They didn't dispute it, because they wanted to quash the guarantee, as per the snippet you gave. The company wanted to prevent other people from making the same claim.

Basically, whether they won or lost her case, there would be more of the same type of case, so it was more in their interest to stop that.

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