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Contracts
University of Iowa School of Law
Andersen, Eric G.

Contracts
Andersen
Fall 2011
 
I. The Autonomy and Security Principles
 
INTRODUCTION
 
-Promise:  a commitment or an undertaking that some event will or will not occur in the future; made by using express words or implied by conduct or some form of words and conduct R §§2,4
 
•Hawkins v. McGee:  Purpose of awarding damages for breach of contract is to put the plaintiff in as good a position as he would have been in had the defendant kept his contract.
Restatements §§1-5
 
-Statements of Mutual Assent, see Restatements §17-20
            •Lucy v. Zehmer holds that if a person’s words and acts, judged by a reasonable standard, manifest a certain intent, it is immaterial what may be the real but unexpressed state of that person’s mind.
            -For more on
 
FORMATION – OR NOT – OF AN AGREEMENT
 
•Embry v. Hargadine, McKittrick Dry Goods Co. holds that the secret feelings, intentions, or beliefs of a party will not affect the formation of a contract if their words and acts indicate that they intend to enter into a binding agreement.
-if the other party reasonably relies on the promise, an undisclosed intention will not affect the formation of a binding contract. 
 
•Oswald v. Allen (“The Meeting of the Minds” case) holds that a contract does not exist when the terms used to express an agreement are ambivalent, the parties understand the terms in different ways, and neither party should have reasonably been aware of the other party’s understanding.
-subjective beliefs DO matter at least where the parties have different understandings of the basic material elements of the deal, in this case, what is being sold
 
OFFER & ACCEPTANCE
b. Offers
R §24:  Offer Defined
•Mesaros v. US holds that where one party solicits and receives an order or other expression of agreement from another, clearly specifying that there is to be no contract until ratification or assent by some officer or representative of the solicitor, the solicitation itself is not an offer, it is a request for an offer
-most of the time, ads do not solicit an offer and sending in an order is not acceptance
*Exception to Mesaros:
•Lefkowitz v. Great Minneapolis Surplus Store holds that a newspaper ad (for the sale of an article) which is clear, definite and explicit, and leaves nothing to negotiation is an offer, acceptance of which will create a binding contract.
-a binding obligation may originate from an ad if the facts show that some performance was promised (in the ad) in positive terms in return for something requested
 
c. Powers of Acceptance
R §35:  Offeree’s Power of Accceptance
R §36:  Methods of Termination of the Acceptance
R §41:  Time Lapse for Acceptance
•Akers v. J.B. Sedberry, Inc. holds that an offer made by one to another in a face-to-face conversation is deemed to continue only to the close of the conversation and cannot be accepted thereafter.
-Plaintiffs offered resignation and Defendants said nothing at the time, but accepted it the next day; such offers must be accepted within the close of conversation or if no time is fixed, within a “reasonable amount of time”
 
Counter-Offers
R §38:  Rejection
R §39:  Counter-offers
R §59:  Purported Acceptance that adds Qualifications
•Ardente v. Horan holds that an acceptance which is equivocal or upon condition or with a limitation is a counteroffer and requires acceptance by the original offeror before a contractual relationship can exist.
-Ps accepted sale of house then proposed that additional items remain on the property – forming a counteroffer that Ds rejected
-“Nevertheless, an acceptance may be valid despite conditional language if the acceptance is clearly independent of the condition” BUT that does not occur in this case
R §42-43:  Revocation
•Petterson v. Pattberg rules that an offer into a unilateral contract may be withdrawn at any time prior to performance of the act requested to be done.
 
OPTION CONTRACTS
R §25:  Option Contracts
R §37:  Termination of Option Contracts
R §45:  Option Contract Created by Part-Performance
•Marchiondo v. Scheck rules that where an offer invites an offeree to accept by rendering a performance, an option contract so created is conditional on the offeree’s completion of performance in accordance with the terms of the offer.
– in case of unilateral offer, the beginning of performance renders the offer irrevocable; if offerree finishes performance, then contract is bound, but if he doesn’t then contract was not accepted and there is no issue.
 
d. Acceptance
R §§50-69:  Acceptances
•Davis v. Jacoby rules that in case of doubt, it is presumed that an offer invites the formation of a bilateral rather than a unilateral contract.
-Unilateral contract = no promisor receives a promise as consideration for his promise
-Bilateral contract = mutual promises between two parties to the contract; each party being both a promisor and a promise
-Restatements have jettisoned the terms bilateral and unilateral contracts because they find them confusing and misleading
 
R §19:  Conduct as Manifestation of Assent
R §69:  Acceptance by Silence or Exercise of Dominion
•Houston Dairy, Inc. v. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. rules that a purported “acceptance” by an offeree after the time for acceptance designated by the offeror has expired constitutes a counteroffer, which must be separately accepted in a communication by the original offeror to the original offeree.
-Silence = no way of knowing whether the offer had been accepted or rejected,
•Cole-McIntyre-Norfleet Co. v. Holloway rules that delay in notification amounts to acceptance of an offer when the subject goods of the contract will become unmarketable by delay.
 
•Seaview Ass’n of Fire Island v. Williams rules that where there is knowledge that a private community homeowners’association provides facilities and services for the benefit of the community residents, the purchase of property there may manifest acceptance of conditions of ownership, including payment for the facilities and services offered. 
-there was an implied contract between the Defendants and the Ps that includes paying a proportionate full cost of maintaining the facilities and services where acceptance of the implied contract is buying the property on the island
-this ca

s where there is proof of a clear and definite oral agreement, there is detrimental reliance on the agreement, and the equities support enforcement of the agreement; (also deals with reliance)
-UCC §2-201-1 says it is not enforceable if not in writing, but it is enforceable b/c it was a promise nonetheless àTHUS, there was reliance
-Court rests its decision on R §139:  Enforcement by Virtue of Action in Reliance
 
II.               The Justification Principle
 
CONSIDERATION
 
Definition:  -‘Consideration’ means not so much that one party is profiting as that the other abandons some legal right in the present, or limits his legal freedom of action in the future, as an inducement for the promise of the first (from Hamer)
 
The Bargained-For Exchange
 
• Congregation Kadimah Toras-Moshe:  an oral promise to donate money is unenforceable.
 
R §17:  Requirement of a Bargain
R §§ 71,72:  Considerations
R §75:  Exchange of a Promise
R §79:  Adequacy of Consideration; Mutuality of Obligation 
• Schnell v. Nell
Issue:  Will the consideration of one cent, which is intended to be merely nominal, support a contract? 
Rule:  A contract will be vitiated for lack of consideration where the consideration given by one party is only nominal and intended to be so.
 
• Hamer v. Sidway
Facts:  Uncle told nephew to refrain from drinking, smoking, etc. until 21 and he will receive $5k, but then doesn’t pay.
Issue:  Is forbearance, or an intentional negative act, on the part of a promise at the behest of the promisor sufficient consideration to support a contract?
Rule:  Forbearance is valuable consideration.
àUncle got good feelings knowing that nephew is being a good boy
àBoy gave up freedom to use tobacco, drink, etc. for a period of years on the strength of the promise that he would receive $5k – thus it was to his detriment despite the fact that he was living a better life by not boozing and smoking
 
•Batsakis v. Demotsis:  mere inadequacy of consideration will not void a contract
-here the devalued currency had some value, so the contract cannot be voided
• Newman & Snell’s State Bank v. Hunter:  In order for a contract to be valid, valuable consideration must be exchanged between the two parties.
-When the P surrendered the something of no value to the D, it parted with nothing of value, and D received nothing of value, the P suffered no loss and the D received no benefit; the weight of authority is behind D, but it is clear that the transaction was without consideration