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This article is written by Sri Vaishnavi.M.N., a first-year student of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Vishakapatanam. In this article, she analyzes the Parker v South Eastern Railway Company.

Introduction

In Parker v South Eastern Railway Company [1], the English court held that not reading the contract cannot be an excuse to escape the contractual terms. This case is a classic example for the exclusion clauses of English contract law. The English Court also held that reasonable measures to be taken to get the customer’s attention on the exclusion clauses of the contract. The party who relies on the exclusion clause must print it in bold and attractive letters to get the needed attention.

Facts of the case 

At the Charing Cross railway station,   Mr Parker left a bag. The charge was two cents. He paid the charge and got the receipt. The ticket receipt of the cloakroom contains the clause that the southeastern railway company which runs the service as well as Charing railway station not liable for items equal or greater value than  £10 on the backside. 

On the front side, a statement was printed “see the back”. Mr Parker did not read the backside as he thought the ticket was just a receipt for his payment. However, he admitted that he knew that the note contained the act. 

Mr Parker’s bag, worth more than 10 pounds, was lost at the cloakroom of Charing Cross railway station. He sued the South Eastern Railway company, the owner of the Charing Cross railway station. The question of the law before the court was whether the clause was applicable to Mr Parker or not and the South Eastern Railway company is liable or not to pay for the loss.

Issue

When he dropped his bag and paid two cents, he received a ticket. On the forehead, the ticket mentioned, “look back.” On the back of the ticket, he stated that the railway was released from any liability for items worth £10 or more. Mr Parker did not read the clause because he thought the ticket was just a receipt for payment. However, he admitted that he knew that the note contained the act. Mr Parker’s bag, worth more than 10 pounds, was lost. He sued the company. The question of the law before the court was whether the clause applied to Mr Parker. At the trial, the jury determined that Mr Parker could not read the ticket.

Reasoning

Justice Mellish, writing for the majority, says that there is no specific law in such situations because it depends on the specific circumstances. If the person receiving the ticket does not know that an act is on the back of the ticket, it can not be bound by its terms. However, if he knew that he had written and refused to read it or did not believe that it contained the terms of the contract, he would be subject to the terms of the contract provided that the note was delivered to him so as to give him notice reasonably that there were conditions. Therefore, the judge states that a new trial must be granted and that the jury must determine whether there is reasonable notice that the deed of sale contains the conditions.

Justice Bramwell accepts in substance but goes further by stating that if the plaintiff sees the act and does not read or read it and does not object, he must be obliged to accept the terms and be bound. He asserts that this is a question of law and that, therefore, the jury need not decide to declare that the verdict must be rendered here in the Southeast.

Divisional Court

The governor Coleridge CJ, Brett J and Lindley J governed for Mr Parker, maintaining the jury’s concession. Lindley J commented: “On the jury’s finding, I guess we can not claim that the litigants did not recognize the article, to be treated by them, without extraordinary terms.” Henderson v Stevenson is therefore indistinguishable from the present case, with the exception of the words “see back”, which were not included in The Essence of the Ticket in all respects. the jury fired, it is, “about the expert of this case, very irrelevant if the unique conditions depend on being on the front or the back of the ticket.”

Court of appeal

Most of the court of appeal held that there should be a retrail. They said that if Mr Parker knew the conditions, he would have to. In the event that he does not even have a clue, in any event, he would be bound to the possibility that the note was given in such a way that it was added to “reasonable advice”. Mellish LJ said the companion:

I have the impression that, in this way, the best possible relationship to leave the jury in these cases is that if the person who received the ticket did not see or realized that there was a composition on the ticket she is not bound by the terms; that, by chance, he knew that he was composing there and he knew or believed that the composition contained the conditions, at that moment he is bound by the conditions; that if he knew that he was composing on the note, he did not know or was not convinced that the composition contained the conditions; on the contrary, he would be obliged if the carriage of the note in this way could Note that there was a composition about it, it was, at the conclusion of the jury, a reasonable warning that the composition contained the conditions.

Baggallay LJ agreed and anticipated that the jury would reach a similar result (in support of Parker). Bramwell LJ disagreed, arguing that a sensible warning should be a problem of law and that it would have governed for the railroad organization.

Judgment

A new trial has been ordered. The trial judge’s order that Parker was not bound by terms he had not read was incorrect. Parker would not be bound by the terms he did not know were printed on the note, but if he knew that the contract contained terms or had written on the note, he would be bound as long as the board was satisfied given enough notice.

Legal principles

The standard form of contracts

The exploitation of the weakest part: The law of the contracts had to face today a problem which takes new dimensions. The problem stems from the modern, widespread and widespread practice of contracting in standard forms. For example, the Indian Railways Administration has to go through countless transportation contracts. It would be difficult for such large-scale organizations to develop an extension contract with each individual. 

They, therefore, keep printed contract forms. These contracts contain a large number of terms and conditions in the fine print that often limits and excludes any liability under the contract. The individual can hardly negotiate with mass organizations and, therefore, their only function is to accept the offer, whether they like it or not. You can not change the terms and conditions, or even discuss them. Therefore, they are to take or leave.

In addition, we can also note that the Honorable Lord Denning MR indicated to Thornton c. Shoe Lane Parking Ltd. that “Nobody in a thousand has read the conditions. If he stopped, he would have lost a train or a boat. “This gives the giant company a unique opportunity to exploit the weaknesses of the individual by imposing conditions that often resemble a kind of privacy legislation and may even exempt the company from liability. resulting from the contract. 

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“The battle against abuse has fallen before the courts.” The courts have had great difficulty in helping the weaker party, especially when they signed the document. they were forced to consider that the document bound you, even if you have never been familiar with its terms, which is what is known as the rule in Estrange v. F. Graucob Ltd, where the facts Ms L signed an agreement without reading it, under which she purchased a cigarette machine. The contract excludes liability for all types of defects in the machine. The machine was totally defective.

However, after having followed the procedure, the court found that the supplier had made no effort to notify the length of the blanket exemption to Ms L. Despite this, the court had stated: “When a document containing contractual clauses is signed, in the absence of fraud or misrepresentation, the party who signs it is bound and it is totally irrelevant whether he has read the document or not. “The result would have been different if the applicant did not sign the agreement.

These contracts have been described in different ways. “Membership contracts”, which means that the individual has no choice but to “accept”; it does not negotiate, but simply adheres to “compulsory contracts” being a kind of taxation and “private law” being a sort of code of laws on the basis of which the individual can benefit from the services offered.

Protective devices

The individual, therefore, deserves to be protected against the possibility of exploitation inherent in such contracts. Below are some of the protection methods developed by the courts.

Reasonable notice

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the person issuing the document to give sufficient notice to the addressee of the printed general conditions. When this is not done, the acceptor will not be bound by the conditions.

The second safeguard of the legal principle of the “standard form of contract” is that the “notification must be concurrent with the contract”, which can be explained in such a way that the notification of terms is given before or after at the contract. A subsequent notification will be equivalent to the original contract amendment and will not bind the other party unless the other party has given consent. For example, a man and his wife rented a room in a hotel and paid rent a week in advance. 

When they went up to occupy the room, there was a notice on one of the walls stating that “the owners are not responsible for the lost or stolen property, unless they are delivered to the persons in charge for preservation” Stolen due to the negligence of the hotel staff, the defendants were responsible, the court ruling that the notification was not part of the agreement.

When the fulfilment of a contract is symbolized by the issuing of a ticket by an automatic machine, the question arises as to whether the notice printed on the ticket has been given to the contractor at the same time. This aspect is discussed in many cases, such as Thornton v. Shoe Lane Parking Ltd.

Other relevant case laws

Henderson v. Stevenson 

In Henderson v. Stevenson[2], the applicant purchased a steam train ticket on the face of which only the words “Dublin in Whitehaven” appeared; On the back, certain conditions were printed, one of them excluding the liability of the company for loss, injury or delay of the passenger or his luggage. The plaintiff had not seen the back of the note and there was no intimidation in the face as to the conditions at the back. The plaintiff’s baggage was lost in the wreckage because of company officials. He had the right to recover the loss of the company despite the exemption clauses.

Mackillican v. Compagnie Des Messageries Maritimes de France

In Mackillican v. Compagnie Des Messageries Maritimes de France[3], the applicant accepted a flight ticket containing the conditions printed in French. He said he was not bound by them, unable to read in French. Rejecting this statement, Chief Justice Garth stated, “Although he may not understand French, he was a businessman contractually bound to the French language, very clearly that the conditions supported were those in which the accused had agreed to take it.

Reference 

  1. (1877), 2 CPD 416
  2. (1875) 2 H.L. Sc. App. 470
  3. (1881) ILR 6 Cal 227

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