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Law School Case Brief

Dickey v. Hurd - 33 F.2d 415 (1st Cir. 1929)


Where parties are at a distance from one another, and an offer is sent by mail, it is universally held that the reply accepting the offer may be sent through the same medium, and, if it is so sent, the contract will be complete when the acceptance is mailed, properly addressed to the party making the offer and beyond the acceptor's control; the theory being that, when one makes an offer through the mail, he authorizes the acceptance to be made through the same medium, and constitutes that medium his agent to receive his acceptance; that the acceptance, when mailed, is then constructively communicated to the offeror.


The buyer filed suit in equity for specific performance of a contract of sale after the seller wrote back that that the offer to sell expired. Prior to that, the buyer has sent a telegram that he accepted the offer subject to verification of the acreage and legal title to the land. The seller died and the executrices were substituted as defendants. The executrices appealed.


Does the buyer’s telegram notice that he accepted the offer of the seller mean that there is an existing contract between the parties?




The court vacated the decree that ordered specific performance of a contract for the sale of land between the seller and the buyer, and remanded with directions to dismiss the suit. The court held that the requirement that the lands be surveyed and that the seller convey marketable title were new conditions that were not accepted by the seller. There was no contract upon which specific performance could be ordered.

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