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Byrne v. Van Tienhoven (1880) C.P.D. 344 (Link)


Oct 01, defendants (D) mailed offer to plaintiff regarding tin plates.
Oct 08, D mailed a revocation of the offer.
Oct 11, plaintiffs (P) received original offer and immediately telegrammed acceptance.
Oct 15, P confirmed acceptance by mail.
Oct 20, P received letter of revocation; P then sued D for breach of contract.


Was a valid contract formed? Does a withdrawal of an offer have any effect before it is communicated to the person to whom the offer was sent?


The mailbox rule does not apply to revocation; revocation sent by post does not take effect until received by offeree. An offer cannot be revoked after it has been accepted.


An uncommunicated revocation is no revocation at all.

Normally, acceptance occurs when the letter is delivered to the post office. However, that is inapplicable to the withdrawal of an offer. There is no legal principle stating that revocation occurs when the letter is posted. Therefore, the offer was accepted on Oct 11. A offer cannot be revoked after it has been accepted.


Decision in favour of the plaintiffs.


  1. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum 32

    Interesting twist on the postal rule

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