Shakespeare famously asserted: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but in contract law establishing the identity of the parties is essential – otherwise the contract may be void for uncertainty. If an incorrect name has been used in a contract, the courts can correct the mistake in some circumstances.

In Derek Hodd Ltd v Climate Change Capital Limited [2013] EWHC 1665, a letter of engagement prepared by a consultant had incorrectly used the name of a dormant company as the client. The consultant claimed against Climate Change Capital Ltd (CCC) for payment of fees, arguing that the client named in the letter was a '‘misnomer’' and should be read as CCC.

The High Court held that CCC should be treated as the client and was liable for the fees. Where a party has been named incorrectly this will not be fatal to the enforceability of the contract, provided that there is sufficient evidence to establish whom the parties intended to be named.

Courts can employ a variety of approaches to correct mistakes, including the principle of “construction” and the “rectification” of contracts. Whether a remedy is available will depend in each case upon the nature of the document, and the nature of the mistake – for example, whether the error is a mere typographical error or a more fundamental mistake about what was being agreed and with whom.

In Derek Hodd, although the mistake went beyond a mere typographical error, the judge felt it was sufficiently clear from the background facts that the parties had intended the contracting party to be CCC. Having reached this conclusion, the judge was willing to correct the error as a matter of construction.