In Determining Whether There Is an Agreement Between Parties, Is English Law Commited to an Objective View of Agreement?

1381 Words Nov 24th, 2008 6 Pages
In answering the question, I will explain the difference between subjective and objective views of agreement. Identify which is used in English Law and why? Examine the relevant theories applicable to objective views on agreement. Look at the types of evidence that are used to make objective assessments and finally identify any exceptions to rule.

When determining whether an agreement exists between parties we must look at the intentions of each party. It is possible to analyse the intentions of parties from either a subjective or objective viewpoint. The subjective viewpoint looks at what the party’s themselves actually intended to obtain from an agreement and can be accomplished by simply asking each party what their intentions were.
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Vorster argued that a bilateral contract could not be easily applied to Haworth’s three perspectives because both parties where effectively promisor and promisee. Vorster instead believed that it should be ‘actor objectivity’ and ‘observer objectivity’. The actions of each party during negotiation being analysed from a reasonable observer’s point of view, rather than from a reasonable actor’s point of view (Chen-Wishart, 2005). We can apply this theory to the case between Hillas v. Arcos (1932), in a dispute over supply of timber and whether an option in the contract was enforceable. The court looked at the prior actions of the parties from a reasonable observer’s point of view, seeing previous actions of the actors that could be seen to determine a means of solving the questionable variables in the option and therefore held that the option should be enforceable.

The evidence courts look for on which to make objective rulings has traditionally been defined by strict hierarchical rules, the topmost priority being the finalised contractual document. The case of L’Estrange v. F Graucob Ltd (1934) illustrates this by the Court of Appeal finding in favour of the defendants on the objective grounds that a reasonable person would not have been induced to sign the contract on the grounds of misrepresentation and as a result the contract signed by the plaintiff was a binding agreement.
In recent years there has been a move by the courts towards to what Chen-Wishart in