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Parker and Gabell checked their luggage on a train. They were given tickets with a number on one side, and small print on the other side. The small print stated that the railway would not be responsible for bags lost worth more than £10. Both respondents had received the tickets before but had never read the small print. They both lost their bags, and brought actions against South Eastern for the value of the bags and their contents – both were greater than £10. In the lower court both respondents were successful; this is the appeal by South Eastern.
- Are the respondents bound by the terms on the back of the tickets?
Appeal allowed; new trial ordered.
Mellish, writing for the majority, states that there is no definite law in situations like this, for it depends on the specific circumstances. If the person receiving the ticket does not know that there is writing on the back of the ticket, then he cannot be bound by its conditions. However, if he knew that there was writing and he either neglected to read it, or read it and did not think that it contained conditions of the contract then he is bound by the terms as long as the ticket was delivered to him in a manner that gave him reasonable notice that there were conditions on it. 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.
Bramwell substantially agrees, but goes further to state that if the plaintiff sees the writing and either does not read it, or reads it and does not object, he must be held to consent to its terms and be bound. He states that this is a question of law, and therefore is not for a jury to decide – he states that the verdict must be given for South Eastern here.
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.