The task given to us in this question falls in the category of UNSIGNED DOCUMENTS – THE “TICKET” CASES.
According to my view, ticket cases are those cases in which you are legally bound in a contract even though you do not formally sign a contract in person. Such type of situation often arises at public places like car parks, public transport, etc. In this situation the dockets or the tickets in terms of public transport, are the proof of evidence that you are in a contract and legally liable for misconduct. The terms and conditions would have been mentioned on the docket itself. In this sort of scenario the offer is mentioned at large and it is to be taken for granted and accepted by whosoever person who uses the services of the service provider. For e.g. If an individual is going to use the public transport than it is mandatory for him or her to buy the ticket and accept the terms and conditions mentioned on the ticket.
While I was browsing on the Internet for more knowledge on Ticket Cases I came across this statement -A signature is generally “irrefragable evidence of assent” to the document, whereby the dictionary meaning of irrefragable is “indisputable”. Now, What would happen if a document were not signed? There are many contracts in which there is a document for example a ticket or a sign displayed at large like on the wall which applies to everyone and contains contractual terms (usually including exclusion clauses) and where it is not appropriate or expected that there will be a signature. It is perhaps most difficult for a court to decide whether someone has agreed to those terms when the most obvious indicator of agreement – signature- is lacking. It is more complicated in case of signature cases. Such types of cases are called the “ticket” cases, meaning all those cases where there are written but unsigned terms, even though not every case is in fact a case involving a ticket as such.
Now, for answering the question: is this person bound by the terms in the ticket or sign? Is that he or she must have been given reasonable notice of the terms, usually at the time of or before entry into the contract. Again what amounts to reasonable notice is debatable, depending on the type of ticket or sign. If it is obvious that it contains contractual terms, then it is reasonable notice just to display the sign or hand over the ticket. If the ticket or sign containing contractual terms are not obvious than more has to be done to draw attention to the terms.
The task given in here relates quite a lot with the ticket cases. Here Mrs Smith is meant to accept the offer, which she has in form of taking a ticket of the dispensing machine for parking her car in Watson’s multi story car park.
According to my view, Mrs. Smith has a very feeble chance to get a hearing on her side by the court. The way in which this case has been mentioned makes me believe that Mrs. Smith has accepted the offer which in this case is the terms and conditions mentioned on the back of the ticket which she takes from the dispensing machine in order to park her car in Watson’s Multi Story Car Park. She has entered into a contract with Watson’s Car Park even though she did not sign any of the documents. The ticket is the proof of the evidence that Mrs. Smith has entered in the contract and is legally bound by the terms and conditions of the Car Park. Below I have tried to describe the contract in my perspective,
Contract is perhaps the most common legal transaction in society and each day most people make a significant number, for example, buying a newspaper, tickets purchased for traveling in public transport etc. Contract is an agreement between two or more parties in which they accept the terms of the conditions. In all cases certain key elements stand out. The following are always included:
(a) The need for a promise or promises
(b) The need for the promise or promises to be between two or more legally capable persons (called “parties to the contract”)
(c) The need for the promises to create an obligation and
(d) The need for that obligation to be enforceable at law.
Thus the essentials of any contract, therefore, are the rights, duties and liabilities that arise from the promise or promises that are made by the parties. Keeping this in mind I believe that Mrs. Smith has entered in the contract and given a promise that she accepts all the terms and conditions of the car park. Here the two parties are Mrs. Smith and Watson’s Multi Story Car Park. Here there is an obligation, which is enforceable at law. Hence all the essentials of the contract are fulfilled.
Further More, the basis of all contracts is “agreement” which usually consists of an identifiable offer and an identifiable acceptance. Although it might not be clear everytime that a separate offer and a separate acceptance was reached between the parties in their agreement. Therefore, there would be a situation where a party misreads an offer or doesn’t fully agree with the offer but due to the situation he or she has to accept it. This is what I think would have happened with Mrs. Smith as well.
Offer is a statement of the terms upon which an offeror is prepared to be contractually bound. It is an expression of willingness to be bound on terms set by the offeror. An offer may be “express”, using written or spoken words, or it may be “implied” from the offeror’s conduct. There are four conditions which are vital in existence of an offer
(a) It must be expressed
Here the offer is made by Watson’ Multi Storey Car Park at large to all the commuters that they can park their cars in the car park by accepting the offer. Mrs. Smith was one of the commuters passing by and was willing to park her car in this park.
(b) Terms Must be Certain
This means that the terms and conditions must be clearly stated wherein this case it were mentioned in the back of the ticket which has to be taken from the dispensing machine before entering the car park and others terms were put in the form of signs in the car park itself.
(c) Party to whom offer was made can only accept it.
An offer can be made to a particular individual or a group or world at large, as in this case the where the offer was made at large and was a unilateral contract that means only offeror communicates and offeree only has to do what is asked. Watson’s Car Park made an offer at large to let the commuters park the car in their car park and set their own terms and conditions like the rates for the time and so on. Here, the offeree has to do what is asked than only he or she would be able to enter car park.
(d) It must show intention to be bound.
Offer must contain intention to be bound legally and formally. The offeree has to have personal intention to bind himself or herself with the offer stated by the offeror. Here, Watson’s Car Park’s intention was clearly stated on the ticket and sign placed on the first floor.
This is my view about an offer; also while doing more research I found a case which would relate to ticket cases of law:
MacROBERTSON MILLER AIRLINE SERVICES v COMMISSIONER OF STATE TAXATION (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (1975) 133 CLR 125 High Court of Australia
In this case, the airline’s ticket was typically given on tender of the price for the proposed travel entered on it. The ticket drew attention to conditions of carriage which contained sweeping exemptions, including giving the airline the right to cancel or alter flight arrangements and also airline could refuse carriage. The question arose that whether the ticket attracted stamp duty as an ‘agreement or memorandum of an agreement’
HELD: It could not be so described, since no contract was concluded at the time it was issued. It is stated that the no contract regarding carriage issue would be considered between the airline and the passenger. The airline was not in contractual relations with the intended passenger until it provided him with a seat on the aeroplane: the ticket being only a receipt for payment of the far. The ticket was merely an offer open for acceptance orally or by the later conduct of the passenger. This was the case that I found similar to the ticket case. Now, in a contract there are two things offer and acceptance so now I will discuss about acceptance in law.
An acceptance is a final and unqualified assent to the terms of the offer made in the manner specified or indicated by the offeror. Acceptance can be oral, in writing or occasionally, it may be implied from the offeree’s conduct. Acceptance is the approval of the offeree to accept the offer and is ready to go in a legal relationship. This is when a contract comes into existence, there is an offer and acceptance as well. Here Mrs. Smith has accepted the offer of Watson’s Car Park’s offer by pulling out a ticket from the dispensing machine. She tends to believe that the terms and conditions mentioned on the back of the ticket are fairenough and she accepts it. Thus now there is a contract which I legally bound between Mrs. Smith and Watson’s Multi Storey Car Park.
There are several rules that have developed in cases where the fact of acceptance has been disputed which are:
(a) The acceptance must be absolute and unqualified
It means that with the full agreement of the terms the offer must be acceptance before entering into a contract. A conditional ‘acceptance’ is not in law.
(b) The acceptance must be made in reliance to offer
It means that the acceptance must be to the offer given by the offeror and not any other offer. Whatever offer is stated by the offeror, acceptance has to be given by the offeree only to that offer and not to any other offer.
(c) Any conditions as to the method of acceptance must be complied with
The offeror can prescribe a particular method of acceptance, which must be complied with, for the acceptance to be effective. If no particular method is specified, Acceptance can be by words (spoken or written) or sometimes even by the offeree’s action.
(d) The acceptance only becomes effective when it is communicated to the offeror.
The acceptance must be clearly communicated to the offeror than only its becomes an agreement and eventually a contract between the two parties.
In this case, Mrs. Smith acceptance is also based on these general rules which she complies with. It is tend to believe that she accepts the entire offer than only she takes the ticket from the dispensing machine whereby the time of the entry also gets recorded on the ticket. It is unfair to revoke the acceptance once acts of offer have been carried out potentially. The acceptance can be revoked provided the revocation is communicated to the offeror before he or she receives the acceptance. But here offeror in this case Watson’s Car Park has already got acceptance from Mrs. Smith and issued a ticket with the time on it. The revocation acts, in effect, as a rejection of the offer. The offer therefore terminates at the point of communication. The point on which Mrs. Smith can revoke the acceptance and argue is that the communication was not done properly, the sign of the $50 charge if car is parked after 5 p.m. was put at first floor and not at the point of entrance. This would be a positive note for Mrs. Smith on which she can argue.
The case given below is related to acceptance under the ticket cases:
THORNTON v SHOE LANE PARKING LTD  2 QB 163 Court of Appeal
Mr. Thornton received a ticket from an automatic machine when he drove into a car park for the first time. He did not read the words on it: ‘this ticket is issued subject to the conditions of issue as displayed on the premises’, nor did he see conditions displayed on a pillar opposite the machine and in the paying office. One condition purported to exempt all types of liability, including for injury to the customer. The condition was raised as a defense in Mr. Thornton’s action for personal injuries suffered when he returned to collect his car.
HELD: The defense failed, since Mr. Thornton did not know of the condition and the parking company did not do what was reasonably sufficient to give him notice of it. Further, per Lord Denning MR, the contract was concluded when Mr. Thornton caused the machine to operate, and before the ticket was issued.
Mrs. Smith can argue from her point that the Watson’s Multi Storey Car Park did not mention all the terms and conditions where it is supposed to be mentioned which in this case is the point of entrance. This can prove a strong point, because generally all the terms and conditions of the offer has to be stated clearly whereby an offeree can read and understand. Here the sign of the $50 was was on the first floor of the car park and she did not take into consideration this offer because clear communication was not made. Also, as per the facts, it seems that the only way to get the ticket was dispensing machine and hence she could not clear her doubts by asking some one present that would know all the rules and regulations of the car park. Apart from this she accepted all the other offer s. The other point which she can argue which in my view would not help her much is that there was traffic in the car park which delayed her way out by 10 minutes. Traffic is something that is not in the hands of the management of car park as well because it eventually depends upon the number of cars parked in the park and the time at which they want to depart. On the same situation about traffic Watson’s car park can counter claim saying traffic is something, which is no t in their control. Also, Car Park can claim the on the point by stating that Mrs. Smith had formed a contract by way of getting the ticket to enter the car park although Mrs. Smith does not agree that a contract was formed. Thus, in my opinion Watson’s Multi Storey Car Park has fair chance of getting a judgment in their favour.