Are you getting 2 for the price of 1 under your contract?

2nd February 2011

In Traditional Structures Limited v- HW Construction Ltd (2010 EWHC 1530 (TCC)) Ansons Solicitors were instructed by Traditional Structures, where the court found that Traditional Structures had made a unilateral mistake and the contract was to be rectified.

In summary, the Claimant sent a quotation to the Defendant to supply and erect steelwork and cladding.  Both items were listed separately on the bottom of the third page as:

Steelwork £ 37,573.43 plus VAT
Cladding £32,365.83 plus VAT

Unfortunately, for unexplained reason the price of cladding was omitted from the version faxed to the Defendant. 

The Defendant sent emails to the Claimant stating “how long the quotation of £37,573.43 plus VAT, for the floor support beams and roof structure is open for”.

The Defendant accepted the quotation by email and stated “we would therefore ask you to accept this email as our order to you to supply and fit the steelwork and roof cladding as per your quotation ref: DH/Q9054 …”

Following variations, the Claimant sent a further quotation to the Defendant where the prices of steelwork and cladding were listed on the first page.  The Defendant expressed concern and claimed that thought he had contracted for sum of £37,573.43 for steelwork and cladding.

The Claimant issued a claim against the Defendant and claimed rectification of the contract on the basis of unilateral mistake.  In other words asked the court to re-write the price of cladding into the contract. 

The case was heard in Technology & Construction Court in Birmingham before Judge Grant.  The Judge found that the Defendant “wilfully and recklessly failed to enquire”, “Shut his eyes to the obvious” and had “actual knowledge” of the mistake.

The Claimant succeeded with its claim for a reasonable price for the cladding works plus costs against the Defendant.

The case demonstrates the importance of making enquiries at every opportunity should you feel there is some irregularity or uncertainty about the quotation you have received.  If you feel there is a mistake in the quote you must contact the other party and make enquiries and bring the mistake to the other party's attention immediately and more importantly not seek to take benefit of the other party's mistake.

Whatever the terms of the contract, you should seek clarification and be honest about the mistake.  Remember, you hardly ever get anything for free.  In this case the Defendant learned the hard way.

If you would like advice on any the issues arising from this case please do not hesitate to contact Martin De Ridder or Jagdip Bains who work in Ansons Solicitors' Dispute Resolution Department.