The case concerned a flu remedy called the "carbolic smoke ball". The manufacturer advertised that buyers who found it did not work would be awarded £100, a considerable amount of money at the time. The company was found to have been bound by its advertisement, which was construed as an offer which the buyer, by using the smoke ball, accepted, creating a contract. The Court of Appeal held the essential elements of a contract were all present, including offer and acceptance, consideration and an intention to create legal relations.
The Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. made a product called the "smoke ball". It claimed to be a cure for influenza and a number of other diseases, in the context of the 1889–1890 flu pandemic (estimated to have killed 1 million people). The smoke ball was a rubber ball with a tube attached. It was filled with carbolic acid (or phenol). The tube would be inserted into a user's nose and squeezed at the bottom to release the vapours. The nose would run, ostensibly flushing out viral infections.
The Company published advertisements in the Pall Mall Gazette and other newspapers on November 13, 1891, claiming that it would pay £100 to anyone who got sick with influenza after using its product according to the instructions provided with it.