Common Mistake in Contract Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


English law has long struggled to understand the effect of a fundamental common mistake in contract formation. Bell v Lever Brothers Ltd [1932] AC 161 recognises that a common mistake which totally undermines a contract renders it void. Solle v Butcher [1950] 1 KB 671 recognises a doctrine of 'mistake in equity' under which a serious common mistake in contract formation falling short of totally undermining the contract could give an adversely affected party the right to rescind the contract. This article accepts that the enormous difficulty in differentiating these two kinds of mistake justifies the insistence by the Court of Appeal in The Great Peace [2003] QB 679 that there can be only one doctrine of common mistake. However, the article proceeds to argue that where the risk of the commonly mistaken matter is not allocated by the contract itself a better doctrine would be that the contract is voidable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-473
Number of pages17
JournalSingapore Journal of Legal Studies
Issue numbernull
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009

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