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Felthouse negotiated to purchase a horse from his nephew. There was a mix-up with the price, as the uncle offered less than the nephew desired. The uncle gave a definite offer to the nephew in January, however no response was given, and no actions were performed as the horse remained in the possession of the nephew. In February the nephew sold all of his farm stock in an auction, and the horse, despite the nephew's instructions that it be reserved, was sold. Felthouse sued the auctioneer, Bindley, in conversion to recover the horse. Felthouse was successful at trial, receiving £33, which Bindley appealed.
- Did the nephew accept his uncle's offer, or was the horse still his property at the time of the auction?
Willes, writing for a unanimous court, says that it is clear here that nothing had been done at the time of the auction to imply that the property had changed hands to the uncle, and the nephew had given no acceptance. Therefore, with no acceptance or implied acceptance through actions the property remained that of the nephew at the time of the auction, and the uncle has no case against the auctioneer for selling goods that were not owned by the nephew. If the nephew wanted to enter into the contract he must have given clear indication of his acceptance, which he had failed to do.
- Acceptance cannot be assumed if there is no notification of acceptance, or implied acceptance through action present.
- You cannot impose obligations on an unwilling party.