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View Full Version : Are agreements made on message boards legally binding?


Elmer J. Fudd
01-14-2000, 01:44 PM
Over in the BBQ Pit, Phaedrus,wishing to prove Gaudre and Andros were the same person, offered a reward of $10,000 if they could prove otherwise by finding a record of them posting at the same time. Manhattan found such an instance and posted a link.

My question: Assuming that Manny could identify Phaedrus IRL and prove that he did offer the reward, could he successfully sue him for the $10,000?

In other words are contracts made on this, or any other, board legally binding in any way?

Here is a link to the thread I'm talking about. http://www.straightdope.com/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000521-3.html

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Elmer J. Fudd,
Millionaire.
I own a mansion and a yacht.

Rysdad
01-14-2000, 02:58 PM
I just wanted to post before the lawyers got there.

As I recall, for a contract to be binding, there has to be a "meeting of the minds" as well as consideration given. (I know there's more, i.e., contractual capacity, legally enforceable, and other stuff I've forgotten.)

I'm wondering if offering a reward such as stated above wouldn't meet the "consideration given" requirement?

On to you Melin, Jodih, et al.

Yarster
01-14-2000, 03:03 PM
Not that this is gospel, but in my business law class in business school, we learned that the elements of a binding contract are:

1) An offer
2) An acceptance
3) consideration

Therein lies your problem: #3. Consideration refers to something of value each party gives up as part of a contract, and that's where lawyers get involved. Clearly, a reasonable person would not expect someone confirming simultaneous posts by two different people (i.e. spending 5 - 30 minutes of their time) to be worthy of $10,000. The person doing the research, however, will argue that it's not his fault some idiot offered such a sum of money to do it. Still, the guy offering the reward might be able to argue that someone providing the evidence in and of itself is not a true 'acceptance', because they needed to confirm with the party in question that they were taking up the offer, and that it was not made in jest if they valued their time in that way.

In other words, one could argue the contract was binding, but a court, and a jury would likely agree it was a joke and dismiss it.

pluto
01-14-2000, 05:01 PM
Just a guess, but I'll bet manhattan votes yes and Phaedrus votes no.

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"To do her justice, I can't see that she could have found anything nastier to say if she'd thought it out with both hands for a fortnight."
Dorothy L. Sayers
Busman's Honeymoon

Cooper
01-14-2000, 05:18 PM
So far, none of the answers given would seem to uphold the legality of any sort of reward - whether it be finding a lost child or a simul-post. Surely if someone posts a public reward for a missing child, and you see the kid two minutes later playing on a swing and bring him home - they can't say that you shouldn't get the reward because you only 'worked' on the problem for 2 minutes, or because you didn't call up the parents and 'accept' the offer before you started looking for the kid.

There must be separate common law for 'public' offerings of this nature that differentiate it from a typical multi-party contract, I just don't know what they are.

I think the reality of this case is that Phaedrus is legally required to pay manhattan, but it is not enforceable. Although a finding of law would give the money to manhattan, a finding of fact would be unable to ascertain who actually posted the note, if they were in their right mind at the time - etc.

DrFidelius
01-14-2000, 05:47 PM
cooper:

"in their right mind at the time"

Well, that's it then. Nothing more to say here...

manhattan
01-14-2000, 05:53 PM
It would of course be unethical for me to opine on this subject.

But I just had to pop in and express my disappointment that Yarster doesn’t think 5 to 30 minutes of my time is worth $10,000.

::sniff::


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Livin' on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

01-14-2000, 06:30 PM
Well Manny, depends on what you're doing with that time . . . ;)

I haven't weighed in here because there are some variables I'm not sure about. One is what state's law would apply to govern this "contract" or "reward offer." Reward offers CAN be legally binding, and so can contracts where the consideration looks skewed on one side or the other, so long as the parties were both aware of what they were offering and accepting and went into the contract with their eyes wide open, with no duress.

Information is certainly a valuable commodity -- how manny on this board make their livings providing information, or providing ways for information to flow more smoothly? I wouldn't necessarily say, therefore, that the "contract" offered by Phaedrus is devoid of legitimate consideration on the part of Manny, or whoever picks up the deal.

I'm not saying it is, and I'm not saying it's not -- I'm saying it's not a slam dunk answer at the moment without putting some more thought and research into it -- Manny dear, I'll cut my fee for you! ;)

-Melin

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"I'll never argue with a lawyer again." -- The Devil Himself.