Couturier v Hastie [1856]

Parties entered into contract for sale of corn,
believed to be in transit at sea.
Before contract made, corn had deteriorated to such
extent that master of ship sold it.
Seller argued buyer liable for price because he had
bought ‘an interest in the adventure’.
House of Lords rejected this argument.
Subject matter of contract was not rights of seller
under shipping documents but corn.
[However House of Lords did not use word ‘mistake’ at
So various possible interpretations of case:
1.  Mistake as
to existence of subject matter renders contract void.
2.  Denning’s
interpretation of Couturier in Solle v Butcher: contract was void because
was implied condition precedent that contract was capable of performance.
3.  Sort of
reasoning employed by High Court of Australia in McRae: question of whether contract void simply question of
construction – who assumed risk of non-existence?]