Williams v Carwardine
|Williams v Carwardine|
|Date decided||22 March 1833|
|Citation(s)|| EWHC KB J44, (1833) 4 B. & Ad. 621; 110 E.R. 590|
|Judge(s) sitting||Lord Denman CJ, Littledale J, Parke J, and Patteson J|
Williams v Carwardine  EWHC KB J44 is an English contract law case which concerns how a contract comes about through the offer of a reward. It also raises interesting questions about the necessity of reliance on an offer in the formation of a contract.
Walter Carwardine was murdered in Hereford. The plaintiff, Mrs Williams, gave evidence at the Hereford assizes against two suspects, but did not say all she knew. The suspects were acquitted. On April 25, 1831, the victim's brother and defendant, Mr Carwardine, published a handbill, stating there would be a £20 for...
whoever would give such information as would lead to the discovery of the murder of Walter Carwardine.
In August, 1831, the Mrs Williams gave more information which led to the conviction of two men (including a Mr John Williams, the plaintiff's husband). She claimed the reward. Mr Carwardine refused to pay. At the trial her motives were examined. It was found that she knew about the reward, but that she did not give information specifically to get the reward. It was apparent that after the first murder trial, Mrs Williams had been savagely beaten by Mr Williams.
At the trial (nisi prius) 
"The motive was the state of her own feelings. My opinion is, the motive is not material."
He held that she was entitled to the reward.
Court of King's Bench
The Court, consisting of Lord Denman CJ, Patteson J held, that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the £20. The advertisement amounted to a general promise or contract to pay the offered reward to any person who performed the condition mentioned in it, namely, who gave the information.
Two judges clearly stated that motives were irrelevant. Littledale J said, "If the person knows of the handbill and does the thing, that is quite enough." Patteson J said "We cannot go into the plaintiff's motives."
- Paul Mitchell and John Phillips, 'The Contractual Nexus: Is Reliance Essential?' (2002) 22(1) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 115-134
- Full text of the judgment on Bailii