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Invitations to a treat or a binding contract?

The bill sent to the parents of a child who didn’t attend his friend’s birthday party has made the headlines this week.

It sparked some interesting debate in our office about children’s parties, and about the nature of contractual obligations.

The conversations about parties were mainly of an anecdotal nature, and not entirely appropriate for public airing, but the discussion about contracts was much more suitable for a blog post!

The law makes a distinction between a contract and a mere ‘invitation to treat’. Contracts require an offer and its acceptance, and an intention to create a legal relationship between the parties, and some payment (usually in the form of money, but not always!)

An invitation to treat, however, is an opening of negotiations; an advert, if you will.

As lawyers, we would need to see both the party invitation and the response to see whether a contractual relationship existed between the parents such that a breach of that contract attracted damages. It’s much more likely that, if anything, the paperwork is a mere invitation to treat and trying to construe a legal relationship from it would be stretching the facts.

Either way, I personally have some sympathy with the parents who’ve paid for an elaborate party and weren’t given the opportunity to give the place to someone else. Some simple politeness and an attitude of “do as you would be done by” could have prevented all of this.

If you’ve got an invoice you don’t want to pay, or been left out of pocket by someone else’s action, do give us a call. If you have leftover birthday cake, then we’d be happy to help with that too!