Brief Fact Summary. Two parties were participants in an illegal "chain distribution game". The Plaintiff brought suit against the Defendant who convinced her to participate in the game.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. "[A] party to an illegal contract cannot ask a court of law to help him [her] carry out his [her] illegal object, nor can such a person plead or prove in any court a case in which he [she], as a basis for his [her] claim, must show forth his [her] illegal purpose."
Therefore, the law will not extend its aid to either of the parties or listen to their complaints against each other, but will leave them where their own acts have placed them.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Due to the illegality of the game the Plaintiff participated in, does she have a right to bring an action in civil court to recover her monies?
Held. No. The court first recognized the illegality of the game the Plaintiff agreed to play by citing GBL 359-fff(1) making it a crime to "promote offer or grant participation in a chain distribution scheme." The court then lays out the general principle, which in short forbids an individual involved in an illegal contract from pursuing a remedy in court. However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule, but those exceptions all involve situations where the parties were "not in pari delicto." Specifically, in these situations, the plaintiff "either acted under duress, undue influence or out of good will." Here, the court found that the Plaintiff was promoting the airplane game in violation of GBL 359-fff(1). Since the Plaintiff was promoting the game, the court concluded she had "larceny in her heart." The Plaintiff's goal was to make a substantial profit and the court refused to "become a referee among thieves."
Discussion. It is interesting to read this case concerning im pari delicto alongside the Supreme Court of the United States' decision in [Bateman Eichler].