Contracts has been one of my hardest classes - I spent the first month completely lost. While I am slowing piecing it together in my mind, I still don't enjoy the class (minus the fact that I like the professor), and I am terrified about the exam. But, last Tuesday was a nice exception to the confusion that I usually find myself in after class...
The Friday before, our professor took volunteers to be the lawyers and the parties for Lucy v. Zehmer. Allow me to explain the pertinent facts in this ridiculous case. It all begins in the backwoods of Virginia...
Mr. Zehmer owned the "Ferguson Farm," which Mr. Lucy had been trying to buy from Zehmer for years. Each time Lucy would make an offer, Zehmer would decline to sell the farm because he was saving it for his boy. At one point, Lucy and Zehmer came to an oral agreement, but then Zehmer later backed out.
Well, on December 20, 1952, things would change...That night, Mr. Lucy walked into Mr. Zehmer's restaurant, carrying a jug of whiskey. Zehmer entered the restaurant a little bit later. Both of them had been drinking. Lucy proceeded to offer Zehmer $50,000 for the land. The two bargained back and forth for 30 to 40 minutes, and then Zehmer wrote down the agreement on the back of a restaurant bill and had his wife sign it. The bill read:
"We hereby agree to sell to W.O. Lucy the Ferguson Farm for $50,000 complete, title satisfactory."
When Zehmer had his wife sign the agreement, he told her that the whole transaction was just "a joke." However, this was never communicated to Mr. Lucy.
The following Monday, Lucy had the title inspected, and arranged for his brother to help pay for the farm. When he approached Zehmer to tender payment, Zehmer said that the document was a joke, and that he was not going to sell the farm.
Enter the courts...Now, at this point, you may be wondering, like me, how the courts can enforce a contract made between two drunk men on the back of a restaurant bill. It all comes down to intent. You see, when forming a contract, courts only consider the outward manifestations of a person's intent. So, the issue in Lucy v. Zehmer was: would a reasonable person in Lucy's shoes have understood a contract?
The court answered in the affirmative. The following factors lend credibility to the document:
(1) The conversation lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, and the document
contained several very specific terms (such as the title inspection);
(2) Neither of the Zehmers requested that Mr. Lucy give the agreement
back after he picked it up off the restaurant table;
(3) There is no evidence that Mr. Zehmer was intoxicated to the point
that he was unable to comprehend the nature & consequences
of the document was preparing. In fact, his wife suggested
that he should have driven Mr. Lucy home, as Mr. Lucy was also intoxicated.
And that concludes the very length introduction. :) The performance of the above situation was quite humorous - the actors were great at filling in gaps in the story, making for some very interesting moments! Our professor also inserted himself into the action several times, and asked questions. It was amazing to see him conduct a cross-examination!!! He pinned every single witness into a corner...oh, how I would love to see him in a courtroom!! :)
The event was recorded on several iPhones...as soon as I can find it online, I will post the video here. :)
Well, now you know WAY more about Contracts than you ever wanted, I will end this post. Next post: pictures of our newly-decorated living room!!!