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JUDGE(S) SITTINGLord Denning MR, Sir Gordon Wilmer & Lord Justice Megaw
DATE OF JUDGMENT18th December 1970
COURTCourt of Appeal England & Wales (Civil Division)
PLAINTIFF / RESPONDENTFrancis Charles William Thornton
DEFENDANTS / APPELLANTSShoe Lane Parking Limited


The case referred here is widely recognized English contract law case heard by three judges. Which provides a clear illustration of the rule that states a clause cannot be added after a contract has been signed without providing reasonable prior notice. Furthermore, a ticket machine that operates automatically was deemed an offer rather than an invitation to treat. Though the case is significant for these two ideas, the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, forbid businesses from excluding their negligence liability over personal injury.


  • During 1964, Mr. Thornton was a highly skilled freelance trumpet person, had an engagement with the B.B.C. at Farringdon Hall. He took his car into the city and parked it in a multilevel automated parking lot. It was somewhere he had never been. An outdoor notice with the words Shoe Lane Parking was present. Parking fees were listed, with 5/- for two hours: 7/6d. for three hours and so on; at the bottom was a disclaimer which read, all cars parked at owner’s risk. 
  • Mr. Thornton approached the gate in his car. nowhere a single man was present. A traffic light was there, and it was red. The traffic light turned green as he approached the designated spot and a ticket was pushed out of the machine. Mr. Thornton, received it and then he drove towards the garage. The motorcar was raised to a floor above by mechanical means. 
  • Additionally, Mr. Thornton left it there and proceeded to attend to his B.B.C. appointment. Later while returning after three-hour, he proceeded to the office to settle the bill for the duration the car was parked there. They brought his car downstairs from the upper level. He headed to the car’s trunk to place his belongings. But instead, tragical incident followed and Mr. Thornton suffered from serious wounds. 
  • The trial judge determined that half the blame was credited to Shoe Lane Parking Ltd. and half to him and He was awarded with £ 3637 6s 11d. further, the defendants appealed but the appeal was dismissed and they did not contest the trial judge findings about the accident. They acknowledged that they were at fault, but they claimed that they are protected by exempting conditions.


1. Whether the exempting condition that is written in the garage form a part of the agreement?

2. Whether is it significant that the ticket was issued automatically?


  • As stated by Thornton, the notice outside the parking lot contains the offer, and the ticket machine is not permitted to add new terms or conditions for customers to park their cars because, at the time a ticket is taken from the machine, a contract is formed, and there is no one at the ticket counter to answer customers questions. 
  • Additionally, these agreements should be made or disclosed before you receive the ticket; that is, once money is deposited into the ticket machine, the terms of the agreement cannot be altered. 
  • According to him, the ticket machine could not create or add new terms or conditions for the offer contained in the notice that is posted outside the parking lot. 


  • Shoe Lane Parking claimed that the customer’s contract is formed at the moment of arrival at the parking lot and that the owner is solely liable for the vehicle they park there. 
  • In support of their claim, Shoe Lane Parking also stated that the ticket contains a contractual document that effectively refers to the terms that are posted and made evident on the parking lot. 
  • They added that SLP has faith in their exclusion clause and that they are not responsible for any accidents that happen in their parking lot because they have taken sufficient and reasonable steps to draw Thornton’s attention as well as the attention of all the customers who have come to park their cars on their property.


 The situation concerned ticket cases in steamships, railroads, and cloakrooms where customers were given tickets by booking clerks and then took them away without reading them. The theory behind these cases was that customers could decline to accept the terms of the contract and refuse to accept the ticket. But tickets produced by automated machines are not covered by any of these cases. The notice on or near the machine contains the terms of the offer, and the customer is obligated to abide by them provided that they are adequately brought to their attention in advance. In this instance, the offer was stated in the sign at the entrance, and it was acknowledged when Thornton drove in and transformed sign from red to green. 

Furthermore, Lord Denning said, any conditions on the ticket could not be included in the contract because it was already finalized when it was pulled out of the machine. Sir Gordon Wilmer and Megaw LJ both agreed on the onerous point, but they held off on giving their thoughts on the finalization of the contract. In addition, the buyer had the chance to express dissatisfaction with the conditions when a human clerk offered the ticket, which set this ticket case apart from the others, stated Sir Gordon Wilmer. Appeal denied along with cost. Early in 2014, the Shoe Lane parking lot was destroyed. 


  1. Parker v. South Eastern Railway Co & McCutcheon v. David Mac Brane Ltd. (1964 1 WLR 125) states that They were worried about steamships, railways, and cloakrooms, where ticket sales clerks gave tickets to patrons who would later take them away without reading them. In those situations, the company viewed the ticket’s issuance as an offer. The customer’s action was interpreted as an acceptance of the offer if he accepted it and kept it without protest.
  2. Hood v. Anchor Line (Henderson Brothers) Ltd. the court determined that the following questions should be posed to the jury in a ticket case: 

(1) Did the passenger know that the railway ticket had printing on it?

(2) Was he aware of the conditions listed on the ticket?

(3) Did the railway company notify potential passengers of the existence of conditions and the places where their terms might be taken into consideration in a reasonable manner?

  1. Watkins v Rymill (1833) 10 QBD 178, 188 & Thompson v London, Midland and Scottish Railway Co [1930] 1 KB 41, 47 held that The theory behind these cases was that the customer had the option to decline to enter into a contract on those terms and reject the ticket when it was handed to them. He could request a refund of his funds. Of course, that theory was a fabrication. One thousand customers never read the terms. He would have missed the boat or the train if he had stopped to do so.
  2. Olley v. Marlborough Court (1949 1 K.B. 532), the ticket is nothing more than a voucher or receipt for the money that has been paid.
  3. Chapelton v. Barry U.D.C. (1940 1 K.B. 532), on terms that have been offered and accepted prior to the ticket being issued.


In this case, the Court of Appeal established that the defendant was held liable and his arguments were not protected because the exclusion clause made by Shoe Lane Parking was not included in the contract. The Court further stated that terms and conditions should be made in a way that compels customers to automatically pay attention to them. For example, all terms should be written in capital letters, bold font, red, or in a way that draws customers’ attention to the sign. However, Shoe Lane Parking is responsible for the damage because they did not do any of this.


  1. https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/
  2. https://alchetron.com/
  3. https://judicateme.com/ 


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