Facts: While intoxicated, the Plaintiff, Lucy, offered to purchase the Defendant’s, Zehmer, farm. Lucy offers $50,000 cash for the farm, and due to miscommunication of the seriousness of the Plaintiff, the defendant agreed by writing up a contract which both the Defendant and his spouse signed. There were several signs during the night at the bar where the contract and conversation occurred on the sale of the farm which exemplified lack of capacity on the defendant’s behalf, as well as other facts that showed Zehmer was fully capable of knowing what he was getting himself into.
The Plaintiff also offered a $5 deposit, which the Defendant refused due to the fact the he thought it was not a serious offer. After the Plaintiff assured the defendant that he did in fact purchase the farm, they parted ways. Later, after the defendant refused to turn over the title to the farm, the Plaintiff sued. The trial court favored with the defendant, and then after being brought to the Supreme Court of Virginia, the decision was reversed.
Procedural History: The defendant was sued for specific performance, which was held at the trial court level because the Plaintiff did not establish a right to specific performance. The appellant appealed the decision of the trial court because he believed there was an objective rule of contract. The Supreme Court then reversed and remanded the original trial court decision. Issue: Did the contract written by the Defendant represent a legitimate business contract that exemplified good faith, and was there clear expression that one party did not intend to be bound to the contract? Holding:
The judgment of the trial court sided with the defendant, but then was reversed and remanded by the Supreme Court. Reasoning: The Supreme Court declared that the contract was sufficient enough in representing an official business transaction. Furthermore, there was no clear expression that the defendant did not intend to be unbound by the contract on the original signing. The defendant showed enough capacity during the process, there was an official signature from the defendant as well as his wife, acting as a cosigner to the agreement. Finally, regardless of how the defendant felt, the written word on the contract expressed his intentions clear enough for a decision to be drawn.
Thoughts: I think that if this case happened in today’s day and age, it would not have even be of question whether or not it was a legitimate contract. There are too many systems today that would make this impossible. Sadly, since it occurred in 1954, I agree with the decision. It is not necessarily fair in my eyes, considering the formality of the contract, the mental state of the defendant, and the manipulative ability of Lucy, but the agreement was written out and signed so there is not much else Zehmer could have done. Link: http://scholar. google. com/scholar_case? case=17973184776787787919&q=zehmer&hl=en&as_sdt=6,48.