Formalities for a binding contract: a conventional steer?

IP Draughts can’t resist re-blogging this golden oldie, about writing your contract on the side of a cow (OK, US readers, it’s not a steer; we don’t have steers in the UK so how is IP Draughts supposed to know the difference? Tsk!)

Nowadays, he would recommend parties consult the Law Society guidance on executing contracts by electronic means.

IP Draughts

How many people remember the case of a cheque written on the side of a cow?  The fictitious case of Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock was one of the more famous of A P Herbert‘s Misleading Cases in the Common Law, which first appeared in Punch magazine in (probably) the 1920s.  It concerned the question of whether a cheque written on the side of a cow was a valid payment of an income tax bill.

The case has been cited in real court cases, including Victor Chandler International Ltd v Commissioners of Customs and Excise [1999] EWHC Ch 214 (16th July, 1999) in which Lightman J held that, for the purposes of certain gaming legislation: “neither a person nor A.P. Herbert’s ‘negotiable cow’ …can constitute a document.”

Cheques are, of course, a different type of legal instrument from contracts.  Both types have some features in common –…

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