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Contract law developed as the status-centered organization of feudal society faded and people began to make choices about how they might order their lives. In the capitalistic system, people make choices about how to interact with others, and—necessarily—those choices expressed as promises must be binding and enforceable.
The two fundamental sources of contract law are (1) the common law as developed in the state courts and as summarized in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts and (2) the Uniform Commercial Code for the sale of goods. In general, the UCC is more liberal than the common law in upholding the existence of a contract.
Types of contracts can be distinguished by four criteria: (1) express and implied, including quasi-contracts implied by law; (2) bilateral and unilateral; (3) enforceable and unenforceable; and (4) completed (executed) and uncompleted (executory). To understand contract law, it is necessary to master these distinctions and their nuances.
James Mann owned a manufacturing plant that assembled cell phones. A CPA audit determined that several phones were missing. Theft by one or more of the workers was suspected. Accordingly, under Mann’s instructions, the following sign was placed in the employees’ cafeteria:
Reward. We are missing phones. I want all employees to watch for thievery. A reward of $500 will be paid for information given by any employee that leads to the apprehension of employee thieves.
Waldo, a plant employee, read the notice and immediately called Mann, stating, “I accept your offer. I promise to watch other employees and provide you with the requested information.” Has a contract been formed? Explain.
An implied contract
The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods is
An unenforceable contract is
Betty Baker found a bicycle apparently abandoned near her house. She took it home and spent $150 repairing and painting it, after which Carl appeared and proved his ownership of it. Under what theory is Betty able to get reimbursed for her expenditures?
Alice discusses with her neighbor Bob her plan to hire Woodsman to cut three trees on her side of their property line, mentioning that she can get a good deal because Woodsman is now between jobs. Bob says, “Oh, don’t do that. My brother is going to cut some trees on my side, and he can do yours too for free.” Alice agrees. But Bob’s brother is preoccupied and never does the job. Three weeks later Alice discovers Woodsman’s rates have risen prohibitively. Under what theory does Alice have a cause of action against Bob?