Curtis v Chemical Cleaning & Dyeing Co

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Citation: [1951] 1 KB 805

This information can be found in the Casebook: Paterson, Robertson & Duke, Contract: Cases and Materials (Lawbook Co, 11th ed, 2009), pp. 360-1 [12.90].


Background facts

  • After cleaning a dress, the Defendant asked the Plaintiff to sign a a receipt.
  • When the Plaintiff inquired why she needs to sign, the Defendant informed her that it wanted to exclude liability for damages for beads and sequins.
  • Actually,the document included a wider exclusion that the company was not "liable for any damage whatsoever.”
  • The dress returned with unexplainable stains.
  • Plaintiff sued for damages


  • Defendant relied on the exemption from liability contained in the signed receipt.

Legal issues


Circumstances in which the effect of a signature may be avoided

  • The general rule to the effect of a signature is that "if the party affected signs a written document known to be a contract which governs the relations between them, then his signature is irrefragable evidence of his assent to the whole contract, including the exempting clauses, unless the signature is shown to be obtained by fraud or misrepresentation."[1]
  • This means that a signature cannot apply where the signature was obtained by a misrepresentation, or where the document was not known to be a contract by the party singing it.


  • A misrepresentation is any behaviour "if it is such as to mislead the other party about the existence of extent of the exemption. If it conveys a false impression, that is enough.[2]"
  • "If the false impression is created knowingly, it is a fraudulent misrepresentation; if it is created unwittingly, it is an innocent representation; but either is sufficient to dis-entitle the creator of it to the benefit of the exemption.[3]"
  • "By failing to draw attention to the width of the exemption, the assistant created the false impression that the exemption only related to the beads and sequins, and that it did not extend to the material of which the dress was was a sufficient misrepresentation to dis-entitle the cleaners from relying on the exemption, except in regards to beads and sequins.[4]"

Document not known to be a contract

  • The receipt could have thought to have been a voucher which the customer must produce when coming to collect the goods, rather than a contractual document containing conditions.
  • In those circumstances, if the conduct of the Offeror gives the impression that the document contained no conditions, then the Offeror will not be able to rely on the signature as having the effect of reading and accepting (thus the terms of the document will not have legal force).


  1. [1951] 1 KB 805, 808, relying on L’Estrange v F Graucob Ltd [1934] 2 KB 394
  2. [1951] 1 KB 805, 808
  3. [1951] 1 KB 805, 808-9
  4. [1951] 1 KB 805, 809
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