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Vogt v. Madden

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiffs sued Defendant for breach of a sharecrop agreement they alleged existed for 1981. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendants appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Silence is acceptance where the offeree silently takes offered benefits or where one party relies on the other party's manifestation of intention that silence may operate as acceptance, or where because of previous dealings it is reasonable that the offeree should notify the offeror if he does not intend to accept.

    Facts.

    The Vogts (Plaintiffs) had an oral sharecrop agreement with the Maddens (Defendants) for the year 1979 to farm seventy acres of land owned by Defendants. The parties renewed the agreement for the year 1980. Under their agreement, Plaintiffs would cover certain expenses and some expenses would be shared by the parties. The net profits from the crops were to be divided equally. Plaintiffs sued for breach of a sharecrop agreement they alleged existed for 1981. A jury returned a verdict in Plaintiffs favor, and Defendants appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an agreement arises by one party’s silence if there were agreements for two preceding years.

    Held.

    No. The trial court’s ruling is reversed. Silence is acceptance where the offeree silently takes offered benefits or where one party relies on the other party's manifestation of intention that silence may operate as acceptance, or where because of previous dealings it is reasonable that the offeree should notify the offeror if he does not intend to accept.

    Discussion.

    Plaintiffs relied on the theory that Defendants’ silence when Plaintiffs proposed a 1981 agreement constituted acceptance. The first situation did not occur, as Plaintiffs did not farm the property in 1981. The second situation did not occur either, as Plaintiffs never stated or gave Defendants assent by silence to Plaintiffs farming the property, and the evidence did not show that Defendants intended to accept Plaintiffs' offer. Finally the prior dealings did not justify Plaintiffs’ assumption that Defendants assented to a contract. After Plaintiffs farmed Defendants’ field in 1979 there was no assumption that a similar agreement would arise in 1980. Rather, Plaintiffs and Defendants met again to discuss whether there would be a 1980 agreement and came to a specific agreement on the sharecropping. Thus the expectation based on prior dealings would indicate that an agreement for 1981 would have arisen out of similar proceedings.


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