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Kibler v. Frank L. Garrett & Sons, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary. Two parties entered into an agreement whereby one was to harvest a certain amount of wheat on the other's property.  The party doing the harvesting sent the landowner a bill, and the landowner sent the harvester a letter and a check for a lot less money than the harvester requested.  The contents of the letter, and a notation on the check are at issue.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order for there to be a satisfaction and accord, there must be a showing that "the defendant manifested to the plaintiff his intention to pay no more than the amount which he remitted." 

    Facts. The Plaintiff, Kibler (the "Plaintiff"), was hired by the Defendant, Frank L. Garrett & Sons, Inc. (the "Defendant"), to harvest the Defendant's wheat crop.  The parties did not agree to a price, however, the Plaintiff testified he told the Defendant that the price would be 18 cents per bushel if there were more than 50 bushels per acre.  However, if the harvesting was more difficult than initially assumed the price might be higher.  The Plaintiff billed the Defendant 20 cents per bushel, because of difficulties encountered during the harvest.  The total bill was $876.20.  The Defendant sent a letter and a check in the amount of $444 to the Plaintiff.  In the letter, the Defendant said the parties agreed to $10 an acre and that because the wheat was relatively heavy they would pay $2 more per acre.  The Defendant also says the amount requested by the Plaintiff was ridiculous.  The Defendant's check included the following fine print:  "By endorsement this check when paid is accepted in full payment of the following account."  The Plaintiff's attorney told him to deposit the check, but neither the attorney nor the Plaintiff knew about the fine print.  The Plaintiff brought suit for the balance, and the trial court determined the parties intended for the check to be an accord and satisfaction. 

    Issue. Did the Defendant's letter and the check, and the Plaintiff's cashing of the check, constitute an accord and satisfaction? 

    Held. No, "there was no showing that the defendant manifested to the plaintiff his intention to pay no more than the amount which he remitted."  The court observed that since the claim was unliquidated "if the check was intended as full payment and that fact was communicated to the plaintiff, his cashing of the check completed the accord."  In determining whether the requisite intention existed, it was necessary to construe whether there was a meeting of the minds.  The court analyzes the Defendant's letter and recognizes it does not say the check "is sent in full payment."  Additionally, the letter does not say "I will pay no more than the amount enclosed."  As such, the court determines the letter alone leaves the amount the Plaintiff is entitled to up for negotiation.  The court then analyzes the check.  The court observes that neither the Plaintiff nor his attorney saw the fine print.  The burden is on the Defendant to demonstrate there was a meeting of the minds.  "If the language contained in the fine print on the check was of significance in forming an accord, it must appear that the fact of its significance was brought to the plaintiff's attention."  The court found that the evidence demonstrated it did not.

    Dissent. The dissenting judge found that the letter on the check "present[s] a classic example of accord and satisfaction" and that "it should have been clear to a person of ordinary understanding that cashing the check constituted an acceptance of the $444 in full payment and discharge of plaintiff's claim".

    Discussion. This case offers an interesting discussion about satisfaction and accord and how courts go about analyzing them.


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