Dickinson v Dodds

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Dickinson v Dodds
Court Court of Chancery
Citation 2 Ch. D. 463 (1876)
Date decided 1876
Appealed from Property


This case was litigated in England.

Case in 1 sentence: the early bird catch the worm

On Wednesday, June 10th 1874, John Dodds ("Dodds") offered in writing to sell a residential estate to George Dickinson ("Dickinson"). The written offer would remain open until 9 am, Friday.

Allen & Dodds signed the real estate contract on Thursday, June 11th 1874.

Dodds offers to sell property with a 9 am Friday deadlineDickinson returns written acceptance to Dodds while Dodds is out of homeDodds & Allen finish property saleDickinson's agent hands duplicate written acceptance to DoddsDickinson delivers a 3rd duplicate acceptance to Dodds before the 9 am deadlineDodds explains to Dickinson that Allen had bought the property yesterday
Wednesday, June 10th 1874Thursday afternoon, June 11th 1874Thursday, June 11th 18747 am Friday, June 12th 1874About 8 am Friday, June 12th 1874About 8 am Friday, June 12th 1874

Procedural History

  • Dickinson = plaintiff = buyer1
  • Allen = buyer2 = defendant
  • Dodds = defendant = property seller

Dickinson sued Dodds & Allen.

Dickinson won in the trial court because Dickinson delivered his acceptance before the 9 am, Friday, June 12th 1874 deadline.


1. Can an offerree (Dickinson) enforce an offeror's (Dodds) promise to hold an offer open for a definite time?

2. Can such an offer be revoked without an express statement?


Lord Justice James: A promise to hold an offer open is not enforceable without consideration, & it can be implied revoked by the offeror's conduct.


Judgment reversed; complaint from Dickinson dismissed.


Lord Justice James: The timeframe to sell was part of the general offer, & therefore, not binding unless validly accepted.

Dickinson hadn't offered Dodds anything to hold the offer open. In other words, Dickinson had not given any consideration (anything of value).


"A meeting of the minds": A moment in time, preceding the contract, during which the 2 parties' minds are in agreement.

In this case, a meeting of the minds of Dickinson & Dodds didn't occur before the sale of the property from Dodds to Allen.

As of 2024, option contracts ( https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/option_contract ) in the United States are available yet require consideration.


Lord Justice James: Dodds (seller who gave a timeframe to sell his property) wasn't required to formally notify Dickinson that the offer was withdrawn before the 9 am, Friday deadline.

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