I’ll Pay You $1,000,000 if this Blog Post is Wrong
Contract professors are excited by this lawsuit out of Texas, in which law student Dustin Kolodziej sued Orlando attorney Cheney Mason for failing to pay up on a boast he made while being interviewed on Dateline.
NBC‘s Ann Curry asked whether there was enough time for [Mason's client] to commit [a crime]. An unidentified person said, “The defense says no.”
“I challenge anybody to show me,” Mason said. “I’ll pay them a million dollars if they can do it.”
Kolodziej did it, though some quick driving, and he now wants his million dollar reward, under a theory of a breach of a unilateral contract.
The case isn’t frivolous per se, but it is unlikely that Kolodziej will make it past summary judgment. This seems like a textbook example of a boastful puff which no reasonable person in Kolodziej’s shoes would believe constituted an offer. As in the new casebook classic Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F. Supp.2d 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), a judge will likely note that the setting (directed at the world, not to a particular person), the offeror’s role (hyperbolic advocacy), the nature of the communication (a “challenge”), and the amount involved (disproportionate to any gain to the offeror) all combine together to destroy the requisite seriousness & formality that distinguish offers from puffs.
Throwing the case out is the right result. Ordinarily courts rely puffery doctrine too often – harming consumers who have relied to their detriment on sellers’ optimism. But here, as in Pepsico, Kolodziej seeks to force a contract on Mason, or at least a settlement. Gotchya contracts like this don’t fit well in any theory justifying enforcement. As an extra weight on the scale here, contractual enforcement would chill a defense lawyer’s efforts on behalf of his client.
This isn’t to say that all publicized rewards are unenforceable. Kodak has just offered $5,000 to some poor kid who failed to meet Megan Fox. Unlike Kolodziej’s case, there is only one potential offeree, the offer is accompanied by a way to communicate acceptance, the amount is reasonable, and Kodak’s goal (to document how a “photograph can connect and change the lives of two complete strangers”) is commercial and understandable.
In the event that you do disagree with me, either about the specifics of the post or about puffery more generally, you are on notice that the title of this post is a joke.