A Romantic Contract?

This story has been floating around for a while, but is still great. The basic plot: after a blind date, the man demands that his date (who didn’t call him back) pay him for half the cost of their meal, on an implied contract theory of recovery. Various emails and voicemails follow.

In some ways, it is a nice hypo for a contracts exam. Under what underlying legal theory would a court refuse to get involved in this dispute? Is consideration lacking? Is the subject matter of the contract too personal?

Food for thought.

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7 Responses

  1. Bruce Boyden says:

    Given prevailing gender norms, I think if anything the implications were the exact opposite of what he is asserting — that he WOULD pay for the meal. I.e., his date did not have “reason to know that the [offered services] were offered with the expectation of compensation.” Rest. 2d s 69(1)(a). He doesn’t get under (1)(b) either — express notice — because he actually refused her offer to split the check. And he couldn’t later accept her offer because it expired when he rejected it. (If he had accepted her offer at dinner, given the default norms, would there have been consideration? Hmmmm…) So I think he loses on formation.

    He could try restitution, but there doesn’t seem to be anything “unjust” here about sticking to the normal, tacitly and expressly accepted social norm.

  2. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    no ‘bargained for exchange’: can’t convert your good deed into legal consideration; an executed gift: too late to lament consideration after gratuitous action

    no unjust enrichment at expense of another (no direct relationship between parties, no clear mistake made by man paying for meal}

    ‘freedom *from* contract’ here

    Be kind: I’m not a law student, lawyer or law professor, just an avocational interest in topic.

  3. Ethan Leib says:

    See Horsley v. Chesselet, Municipal Ct of San Francisco (Small Claims Action No. 346278, 1978). Mr. Tom Horsley sues Ms. Alyn Chesselet for $32 or $38 (depending which casebook you believe) “that he expended . . . for gasoline and for theatre tickets in order to perform his promise to escort Defendant for an evening at the theatre.” He drove 50 miles to pick her up and she failed to notify him that she was canceling the date. He wanted a mileage reimbursement and $8.50 per hour of his time (his billing rate). Court (Judge Figone) decides “that the promise to engage in a social relationship for one evening” is unenforceable; “the promise to attend a social engagement is always conditioned on the promisor’s ability or disposition to attend the event . . . particularly . . . within the context of a ‘dating’ situation.” See NY Times, July 28, 1978.

  4. Darren is clearly out of his mind. Accordingly, there could not have been any meeting of the minds, and therefore no contract.

    The more interesting legal issue here, I think, is whether Darren could face any liability based on his false report of an irregularity on his credit card charge at China Grill. Fraud? Defamation? Intentional infliction of emotional distress?

  5. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    Thanks, Ethan, I found this case in my 6th ed. Farnsworth et al in the notes.

  6. Howard Wasserman says:

    Maybe you are onto the next interdisciplinary field–Law and Romance. This could be the contracts case. It could be taught alongside the tort case of Doe v. Moe (Mass. Court of Appeals 2005), where a man sued his partner for negligence for an injury sustained during intercourse.

  7. Miriam Cherry says:

    Yes, it does appear there was a lack of “consideration” indeed….