Ingram v Little [1961] 1 QB 31

Contract - Mistake - Mistake as to identity - Fraud - Voidable Contract

Facts:

The Plaintiffs were joint owners of a car. A fraudster attempted to purchase the car by cheque, which they initially refused. He pretended to be a reputable business man and the Plaintiffs then accepted payment by cheque. The cheque dishonored the next day. By then, the fraudster had sold the car to the defendants who were the bona fide purchasers of the car. The Plaintiffs sought to recover the car or the value of the car from the defendants.

Issues:

The issue here was whether the defendants could claim possessory title over the vehicle based on a contract made by mistaken identity.

Held:

The Plaintiffs claim was successful. The court applied the general principle of the process of forming a binding contract to the current facts. Where an offeror makes an offer to the promisee, the offeror is making such an offer only with the person identified and no one else. The fraudster pretended to be a well known business man and that was the only reason why the Plaintiffs accepted payment by cheque, as initially they had refused. The contract for sale was therefore only made with the wealthy businessman and not the fraudster in his personal capacity. Thus, the fact that the fraudster used someone else's identity to make the contract prevented a contract from being formed. It also prevented the possessory title from being passed to the fraudster and then on to the defendant.