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Lonergan v. Scolnick

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Lonergan v. Scolnick
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    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Lonergan, responded to an ad placed by Defendant, Scolnick for land the Defendant was interested in selling.  Plaintiff corresponded with Defendant through a series of letters.  Defendant sold the land to a third party.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An invitation for offers does not operate as an offer to create an enforceable contract.

    Facts. Defendant placed an ad in a newspaper indicating that he wished to sell some property.  In response to an inquiry from Plaintiff, Defendant sent Plaintiff a form letter describing the property, giving directions to the property, and indicated the lowest price he would accept for the property.  Plaintiff wrote Defendant to request a legal description of the property and to suggest an escrow agent “should I desire to purchase the land.”  Defendant wrote Plaintiff back including a legal description, approval of the escrow agent, and warning Plaintiff that he expected to have a buyer soon.
    Defendant sold the land to a third party. After the land had been sold, Plaintiff received Defendant’s last letter.  Plaintiff wrote Defendant indicating that he would soon open escrow and requested the deed “in conformity with your offer.”  Plaintiff brought the present cause of action to compel specific performance or, alternatively, to recover damages.

    Issue. Did the parties enter into a contract?

    Held. No.  The parties did not enter into a contract.
    •    The trial court found that Defendant had made an offer, however, an enforceable contract did not exist because Plaintiff failed to accept the offer before it was revoked.
    •    In the present case, the Court finds that Defendant did not make an offer.  Unlike the trial court, this Court characterizes Defendant’s communication with Plaintiff as an invitation for offers.  Defendant clearly indicates that there are other potential buyers and at no time agrees to hold the property for Plaintiff.

    Discussion. An enforceable contract requires an offer and acceptance.  In the present case Defendant made an invitation for offers, but at no time made an offer to Plaintiff.  Because Defendant at no time made an offer, Plaintiff could not have accepted an offer to create a binding contract.


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