>> Business Law and Ethics
Jack had a successful family-operated antique and curio business at a local flea market. Every weekend, he would scour community newspapers, flyers, bulletin boards, and homemade road signs and so forth, for yard or garage sales. Based on his knowledge of certain neighborhood demographics in the region, he would determine which sales were most likely to have quality items. For example, a neighborhood near him had been built about 25 to 30 years prior. That meant that a large number of the original owners were either moving away (for example, to a retirement community), or moving in with their adult children who live nearby or in other towns and states. Jack would rank the sales in an order of priority and then arrange to be at the best ones as soon as they opened, if not before.
One weekend, he arrived an hour before opening at his first sale. There were several pieces of antique china. He immediately made an offer of $150.00 for the entire lot, knowing that a single plate would be worth that much in New York, if he could not sell it in his own shop. The older adult widow who was selling (to downsize for assisted living) took his offer, and he loaded the china. He was so pleased with that purchase that he went to no other sales that day.
A month or so later, the china was on display at his shop, marked with the much higher market prices. As it happens, the adult daughter of the widow happened to come into his shop. She saw the china, and realized that it had been her family's good china for her entire childhood. She sought out Jack and told him that it was a mistake that her mother had sold the china to him. It was not to be sold, and in any event, certainly not at such a low price. She said that her mother was going to assisted living because she was experiencing the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The sale had been set for particular times so that the daughter could be there to help price things, but Jack had come before the advertised opening, so she (the daughter) was not there until just after he left. She had not missed the china until sometime later when she asked her mother about it and was told that it had been sold.
The daughter offered Jack double what he paid for the china, just to be "fair." He refused the offer. Within the week, he was served with legal process seeking return of the china, or alternatively, its value, which was estimated to be $25,000.00.
- Jack has to decide whether to engage an attorney. What would you advise?
- Was there a valid contract when Jack purchased the china for $150.00. Why or why not? Did Jack's superior knowledge prevent formation of a contract? How might the widow's age or possible medical condition affect contract formation?
- What is the likelihood that the daughter's suit will succeed? State your reasons. Is contract rescission a potential remedy? Why or why not? Is an award of monetary damages an adequate remedy? Why or why not?