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INGRAM Vs. LITTLE (1961) 1 QB 31
COURTThe Supreme Court of Judicature, England & Wales
JUDGEJustice Devlin LJ., Justice Pearce LJ.,


       The case of Ingram Vs. Little is a case which led to many criticisms due to its decision. This case dealt with the matters of mistake as to identity, validity of oral face-to-face contracts, the presumption with regards to it. The importance of the fact of the mistake as to identity to the decision of in case of fraud as a result of it or not. The valid title of goods and when the buyer holds a valid title and in what circumstances that is would turn invalid. The decision of this case led to the rise of many criticisms from the learned judge of law and in different case discussions.


  1. The plaintiffs advertised to sell their car in the newspaper, a person responded to the advertisement and test drove the car.
  2. The negotiations for the price started and the plaintiffs rested at the price of 717 euros, and the plaintiffs accepted the price only due to the fact that she thought that the money would be paid in cash.
  3. However, the person pulled out a cheque, the plaintiffs were not ready for the sale against cheque and cancelled the agreement.
  4. The person represented himself to be a well-reputed businessman named P.G.M. Hutchinson and provided them with his address, the plaintiff’s sister went out to the nearby post office and verified the person and his address.
  5. Due to this, the plaintiffs were ready for the transaction, and allowed the person to take away the car against the payment by the cheque.
  6. When the cheque was deposited, it dishonoured, and the buyer of the car was found to be a rogue/fraudster. The person who purchased the car was not the real reputed businessman Hutchinson.
  7. When the car was traced back, it was discovered that the rogue had sold it to the defendant of this present case and they were bona fide purchasers of the car.
  8.  The possessory title of the respondents and the loss-back for the plaintiffs was put before the court of law to be decided.
  9. The case was put up against the defendants for the return of the car back to them or the damages to be paid to them for the tort of conversion.


  1. Whether the respondents had the possessory title to the car over the car which was based on a contract as a result of mistake of identity?
  2. Whether there was a valid contract between the plaintiff and the fraudster? Whether the contract was void or voidable?
  3. Whether the mistake of identity had a vital importance to the facts of the case?


  1. Mistake of Identity of a party to a contract.
  2. Validity of a contract made as a result of Mistake of Identity.
  3. The status of possessory title as a result of void and voidable contracts.


  1. The plaintiffs argued that there was never a contract between them and the fraudster, so the title of the car never passed from them.
  2. They extended that they never intended to enter into the contract with the actual person before them but only with the reputed businessman Hutchinson, and they accepted the transaction only after affirming his existence with the nearest post-office.
  3. The offer was said to be posed against only the real businessman and not the rogue.
  4. The claimants thus sued the defendants for the return of the car or for damages for conversion.


  1. The respondents contended that they were bona fide purchasers of the car and there were no discrepancies to the title of the car to their notice.
  2. They stated that their existed a contract due to unilateral mistake of Identity.
  3. They argued that the rogue had voidable title over the car. Because of the execution of the contract of sale by the acceptance of the cheque, the title has passed to the rogue and to them the title was not at fault.
  4. The contract would be voidable when it is due to the involvement of misrepresentation.
  5. They further stated that they were not aware of the seller of the car to them being a fraudster/rogue.


      The claim of the plaintiffs was successful and held the defendants liable for conversion. It upheld that the defendants did not have a good title to the goods, as the contract between the rogue and the plaintiffs was void. Justice Pearce LJ was of the view that the presumption which generally arises in face-to-face cases that the offer is only to the person before them is rebutted in this case, because in this case, the offer was only made to the reputed businessman, as the matter of acceptance was only due to that he was a reputed businessman and not any other person. The court held that the possessory title never passed from the plaintiffs to the rogue, the contract being void.


  1. The contract would have become voidable if it was treated as a misrepresentation or unilateral mistake of identity. Since due to the circumstances of the case, that they would have rejected the transaction when the buyer being any other person, the presumption as to face-to-face transaction was also rebutted.
  2. This case led to criticisms, and another judge had a dissenting opinion that the loss should have been divided between the parties to achieve justice. As the case is, when both the parties are innocent, the loss should be apportioned equally. If any one party is at fault, they should suffer more or all of the loss.
  3. The decision is not based on a stringent application but due to the interpretation of the facts the case that is why the judges had different opinions as to the case, and the other judge had found no evidence to rebut the presumption.
  4. The decision was made consistent in later cases of Lewis Vs. Averay and Phillps Vs. Brooks.


  1. https://www.lawteacher.net/cases/ingram-v-little.php
  2. https://ipsaloquitur.com/contract-law/cases/ingram-v-little/
  3. https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5a8ff87960d03e7f57ec111c#:~:text=Case%20Summary&text=The%20defendant%20bought%20the%20car,the%20car%20in%20good%20faith.

This Article was written by Magizhini M of The Tamilnadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University (SOEL), An intern as the Legal Vidhiya.

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