Parker v South Eastern Railway Co (1877) 2 CPD 416



Date decided:

Now, I am of opinion that we cannot lay down, as a matter of law, either that the plaintiff was bound or that he was not bound by the conditions printed on the ticket, from the mere fact that he knew there was writing on the ticket, but did not know that the writing contained conditions. I think there may be cases in which a paper containing writing is delivered by one party to another in the course of a business transaction, where it would be quite reasonable that the party receiving it should assume that the writing contained in it no condition, and should put it in his pocket unread. [...] The railway company, as it seems to me, must be entitled to make some assumptions respecting the person who deposits luggage with them: I think they are entitled to assume that he can read, and that he understands the English language, and that he pays such attention to what he is about as may be reasonably expected from a person in such a transaction as that of depositing luggage in a cloak-room. The railway company must, however, take mankind as they find them, and if what they do is sufficient to inform people in general that the ticket contains conditions, I think that a particular plaintiff ought not to be in a better position than other persons on account of his exceptional ignorance or stupidity or carelessness. But if what the railway company do is not sufficient to convey to the minds of people in general that the ticket contains conditions, then they have received goods on deposit without obtaining the consent of the persons depositing them to the conditions limiting their liability.((422-3 - but double check before using.))
Now as regards each of the plaintiffs, if at the time when he accepted the ticket, he, either by actual examination of it, or by reason of previous experience, or from any other cause, was aware of the terms or purport or effect of the endorsed conditions, it can hardly be doubted that he became bound by them. I think also that he would be equally bound if he was aware or had good reason to believe that there were upon the ticket statements intended to affect the relative rights of himself and the company, but intentionally or negligently abstained from ascertaining whether there were any such, or from making himself acquainted with their purport. But I do not think that in the absence of any such knowledge or information, or good reason for belief, he was under any obligation to examine the ticket with the view of ascertaining whether there were any such statements or conditions upon it.((425-6 - but double check before using.))
The plaintiffs have sworn that they did not know that the printing was the contract, and we must act as though that was true and we believed it, at least as far as entering the verdict for the defendants is concerned. Does this make any difference? The plaintiffs knew of the printed matter. Both admit they knew it concerned them in some way, though they said they did not know what it was; yet neither pretends that he knew or believed it was not the contract. Neither pretends he thought it had nothing to do with the business in hand; that he thought it was an advertisement or other matter unconnected with his deposit of a parcel at the defendants' cloak-room. They admit that, for anything they knew or believed, it might be, only they did not know or believe it was, the contract. Their evidence is very much that they did not think, or, thinking, did not care about it. Now they claim to charge the company, and to have the benefit of their own indifference. Is this just? Is it reasonable? Is it the way in which any other business is allowed to be conducted? Is it even allowed to a man to 'think,' 'judge,' 'guess,' 'chance' a matter, without informing himself when he can, and then when his 'thought,' 'judgment,' 'guess,' or 'chance' turns out wrong or unsuccessful, claim to impose a burthen or duty on another which he could not have done had he informed himself as he might?"((427 - but double check before using.))

>Has not the giver or the paper a right to suppose that the receiver is content to deal on the terms in the paper? What more can be done? Must he say, 'Read that?' As I have said, he does so in effect when he puts it into the other's hands. The truth is, people are content to take these things on trust. They know that there is a form which is always used - they are satisfied it is not unreasonable, because people do not usually put unreasonable terms into their contracts. If they did, then dealing would soon be stopped. Besides, unreasonable practices would be known. The very fact of not looking at the paper shews that this confidence exists. It is asked: What if there was some unreasonable condition, as for instance to forfeit £1,000 if the goods were not removed in 48 hours? Would the depositor be bound? I might content myself by asking: Would he be, if he were told 'our conditions are on this ticket,' and he did not read them. In my judgment, he would not be bound in either case. I think there is an implied understanding that there is no condition unreasonable to the knowledge of the party tendering the document and not insisting on its being read - no condition not relevant to the matter in hand. I am of opinion, therefore, that the plaintiffs, having notice of the printing, were in the same situation as though the porter had said, 'Read that, it concerns the matter in hand;' that if the plaintiffs did not read it, they were as much bound as if they had read it and had not objected.((428 - but double check before using.))