In this chapter we have seen that two fundamental sources of contract law are the common law as developed in the state courts and as summarized in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, and the Uniform Commercial Code for the sale of goods.
Sales law is a special type of contract law, governed by Article 2 of the UCC. Article 2 governs the sale of goods only, defined as things movable at the time of identification to the contract for sale. When the goods are “sold” incidental to a service, the courts do not agree on whether Article 2 applies. For two categories of goods, legislation specifically answers the question: foodstuffs served by a restaurant are goods; blood supplied for transfusions is not.
Types of contracts can be distinguished along these axes: (1) express and implied, including quasi-contracts implied by law; (2) bilateral and unilateral; (3) enforceable and unenforceable; and (4) completed (executed) and uncompleted (executory). To understand contract law, it is necessary to master these distinctions and their nuances.
In order to determine whether a valid, enforceable contract exists, the following questions must be answered: (1) Did the parties reach an agreement? (2) Was consideration present? (3) Was the agreement legal? (4) Did the parties have capacity to make a contract? (5) Was the agreement in the proper form?
Remedies available against someone who breaches a contract include damages, specific performance, and restitution. Frequently the party who is not in breach must choose between tort and contract remedies.
- On November 26, Joe wrote to Kate offering to purchase a farm that she owned. Upon receiving the letter on November 28, Kate immediately sent Joe a letter of acceptance. However, shortly after mailing the letter, Kate had second thoughts and called Joe to advise him that she was rejecting his offer. The call was made before Joe received the letter of acceptance. Has a contract been formed? Why?
- On a busy day just before April 15, Albert Accountant received a call from a local car dealer. The dealer said, “Hi, Mr. Accountant. Now, while you have income from doing clients’ taxes, I have an excellent offer for you. You can buy a new Buick Century automobile completely loaded for $36,000. Al, I know you’re busy. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day, I’ll assume you want the car.” Albert, distracted, did not respond immediately, and the dealer hung up. Then followed an exhausting day of working with anxiety-ridden tax clients. Albert forgot about the conversation. Two days later a statement arrived from the dealer, with instructions on how Albert should pick up the car at the dealership. Is there a contract? Explain.
- Bert purchased Ernie’s car. Before selling the car, Ernie had stated to Bert, “This car runs well and is reliable. Last week I drove the car all the way from Seattle to San Francisco to visit my mother and back again to Seattle.” In fact, Ernie was not telling the truth: he had driven the car to San Francisco to visit his paramour, not his mother. Upon discovery of the truth, may Bert avoid the contract? Why?
- Langstraat was seventeen when he purchased a motorcycle. When applying for insurance, he signed a “Notice of Rejection,” declining to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. He was involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist and sought to disaffirm his rejection of the uninsured motorist coverage on the basis of infancy. May he do so?
- Richard promised to have Darlene’s deck awning constructed by July 10. On June 20, Darlene called him and asked if he could get the job done by July 3, in time for Independence Day. Richard said he could, but he failed to do so, and Darlene had to rent two canopies at some expense. Darlene claims that because Richard breached his promise, he is liable for the cost of awning rental. Is she correct—was his promise binding? Why?
- After taking a business law class at State U, Elke entered into a contract to sell her business law book to a classmate, Matthew, for $45. As part of the same contract, she agreed to prepare a will for Matthew’s mother for an additional $110. Elke prepared the will and sent the book to Matthew, but he refused to pay her. Is she entitled to any payment? Explain.
- Sara Hohe, a fifteen-year-old junior at Mission Bay High School in San Diego, was injured during a campus hypnotism show sponsored by the PTSA as a fund-raiser for the senior class. Hypnotism shows had been held annually since 1980, and Sara had seen the previous year’s show. She was selected at random from a group of many volunteers. Her participation in the “Magic of the Mind Show” was conditioned on signing two release forms. Hohe’s father signed a form entitled “Mission Bay High School PTSA Presents Dr. Karl Santo.” Hohe and her father both signed a form titled “Karl Santo Hypnotist,” releasing Santo and the school district from all liability. During the course of the show, while apparently hypnotized, Hohe slid from her chair and also fell to the floor about six times and was injured. She, through her father, then sued the school district. The Hohes claimed the release was contrary to public policy; the trial court dismissed the suit on summary judgment. Was the release contrary to public policy? Decide.
- Plaintiff Irma Kozlowski cohabited with Defendant Thaddeus Kozlowski for fifteen years without marriage. She repeatedly asked him specifically about her financial situation should he predecease her, and he assured her—she said—that he would arrange to provide for her for the rest of her life. She had provided the necessary household services and emotional support to permit him to successfully pursue his business career; she had performed housekeeping, cleaning, and shopping services and had run the household and raised the children, her own as well as his. When they separated and she was “literally forced out of the house,” she was sixty-three years old and had no means or wherewithal for survival. When she sued, he raised the Statute of Frauds’ one-year rule as a defense. Is the defense good?
- Owner of an auto repair shop hires Contractor to remodel his shop but does not mention that two days after the scheduled completion date, Owner is to receive five small US Army personnel carrier trucks for service, with a three-week deadline to finish the job and turn the trucks over to the army. The contract between Owner and the army has a liquidated damages clause calling for $300 a day for every day trucks are not operable after the deadline. Contractor is five days late in finishing the remodel. Can Owner claim the $1,500 as damages against Contractor as a consequence of the latter’s tardy completion of the contract? Explain.
- Calvin, a promising young basketball and baseball player, signed a multiyear contract with a professional basketball team after graduating from college. After playing basketball for one year, he decided he would rather play baseball and breached his contract with the basketball team. What remedy could the team seek?
SELF CHECK QUESTIONS
- An implied contract
- must be in writing
- is one in which the terms are spelled out
- is one inferred from the actions of the parties
- is imposed by law to avoid an unjust result
- may be avoided by one party.
- The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods is
- an annual meeting of international commercial purchasing agents.
- contract law used in overseas US federal territories
- a customary format or template for drafting contracts
- a kind of treaty setting out international contract law, to which the United States is a party
- the organization that develops uniform international law.
- can consist of a written acknowledgment of some benefit received, even if in fact the benefit is not delivered
- cannot be nominal in amount
- is a bargained-for act, forbearance, or promise from the promisee
- is all of the above
- An example of valid consideration is a promise
- by a seventeen-year-old to refrain from drinking alcohol
- to refrain from going to court
- to cook dinner if the promisor can get around to it
- to repay a friend for the four years of free legal advice he had provided.
- A contract to pay a lobbyist to influence a public official is generally illegal.