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Owen v. Tunison

Citation. 131 Me. 42, 158 A. 926, 1932 Me. 10
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant asking to buy a certain property for $6000. Defendant wrote a reply that described that “it would not be possible to sell unless I was to receive $16,000 cash.” Plaintiff then sent a message that he accepted the offer to buy for $16,000.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

An offer is an act that must express the will or intention to allow an offeree to reasonably believe that the power to create a contract. It excludes situations that evidence intent to deal or open negotiations.


Plaintiff’s message stated “I accept offer for Bradley block, Buckspor Terms Sixteen thousand send deed.” Four days after sending the message seeking to buy the property for $16,000, Plaintiff was notified that Defendant did not wish to sell the property.


Whether there was a binding contract for sale of the property entitling the willing buyer to damages for seller’s failure to deliver the deed.


Defendant’s letter stating “it would not be possible to sell unless I was to receive $16,000” was found to show intent to open negotiations that might lead to a sale but that it was not a proposal to sell. Defendant did not write an offer to sell that would empower the plaintiff to bind a contract for sale by his acceptance.


Courts look to similar language that had been determined to be intent to negotiate or bargain rather that intent to offer a contract for sale such as “would not consider less than” an amount or language that generally might be used in an advertisement. The Court found the language of the letter “not be possible to sell unless” did not manifest an intention to give Plaintiff the power to close a final deal with his acceptance.

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