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Williams v. Carwardine, [1833] EWHC KB J44.


Walter Carwardine was murdered in Hereford. The plaintiff, Mrs Williams, gave evidence at the Hereford Courts of Assize against two suspects, but withheld information. The suspects were subsequently acquitted. On April 25, 1831, the victim's brother and defendant, Mr Carwardine, published a handbill stating there would be a £20 for whoever would give such information as would lead to the conviction of the murderer of his brother,.

It was apparent that after the first murder trial, Mrs Williams had been savagely beaten by Mr Williams. Mrs. Williams believed that she did not have long to live and in order to ease her conscience, she gave a statement that led to conviction of Mr. Williams for the murder of Walter. Afterwards, she tried to claim the reward but Mr Carwardine refused to pay.


Was there a contract whereby D was obligated to pay P the money promised?


There can be a contract with any person who performed the necessary condition(s) in a advertisement.

All that was necessary to fulfill the contract was that she knew of the reward before giving the information (even if her only motive to give the information was for the reward).


At the trial Mrs. Williams motives were examined. It was found that she knew about the reward, but that she did not give information specifically to get the reward.

Anyone who brought themselves within the terms of the advertisement was entitled to recover. It was an offer to the whole world.

Where a party is apprised of an offer of a reward, it goes to no account that she performed the requested act (acceptance) for some motive other than for gaining the reward

See: Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball: Mrs. Carlill in sniffing the smoke ball was essentially to avoid catching influenza, NOT the reward in offer. But the court held that she was entitled to the “reward” because she was aware that it was promised/offered by the smoke Ball Co.


Plaintiff successful.


Does this mean that one can be party to contract, i.e. accept an offer even though one has no knowledge of the offer?

Not necessarily so. In one report Denman, C.J. asked if she knew of the advertisement/offer at the time of giving the information … and it was said (presumed) that she must have known because the poster was printed all over the place where she lived

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