Replying To An Email Does Not Create A Contract (And Does Not Require Walmart Pay $600 Billion)
from the that's-not-how-the-law-works... dept
While this case involves one of the many ridiculous lawsuits filed by individuals demanding insane sums of money from companies for no good reasons, there are some good points in here (also, like many of these lawsuits, it involves a plaintiff who has history of filing lawsuits). Apparently, a guy by the name of David Stebbins sued Walmart. To understand the basis of the lawsuit, you have to understand that he sent various companies a link to a "contract" on his MySpace page, which he claims presents a binding contract (if you're particularly risk averse, you may want to avoid clicking on that link, though it's difficult to believe any such contract is valid). Here are some snippets from the faux contract:
My name is David Anthony Stebbins, and I live in Harrison, AR. I am sending a link to this webpage to various companies to put you on notice: If you contact me in any way, shape, or form, you hereby acknowledge that you have read, understand, and agree to be legally bound by the terms below.It goes on along those lines. Anyway, he sent the email to Walmart with the link to this contract. Walmart customer care sent back a standard, boilerplate reply suggesting he contact a different department, which Stebbins used to claim the contract had been entered into (in combination with him also buying a gallon of milk -- don't ask). He sent a letter to Walmart demanding arbitration to settle their "legal dispute." When Walmart failed to agree to arbitration within 24-hours, he claims that he wins and should get $600 billion (with a b):
This will also take effect if I attempt to contact you, and, upon hearing my name, you do not cease communications with me on the spot.
[...] You hereby agree to allow me to use, distribute, and sell the rights to your name, physical likeness, and any intellectual property that you may own, throughout the universe, for no fee, for all eternity.
You hereby agree to not request, nor accept any offer for, any third party to remove any material that I use that you feel that you own the copyright to.
You hereby agree that, for now and for all eternity, in the event that I ask you a question, you must answer it promptly, accurately, and truthfully.
You hereby agree to never
Interrupt me when I am speaking, for all eternity.
Hang up on me in any phone call, for all eternity.
Block my attempts to communicate with you, for any reason, for all eternity.
Ask me a question that I have previously answered, for all eternity.
Demonstrate any rudeness, annoyance, or disrespect, however petty, against me, for all eternity.
Accuse me of lying, or any variation thereof, for all eternity.
"since Wal–Mart did not accept the arbitration invitation within twenty-four hours of receiving it, he automatically wins regardless of the merits of the case and is entitled to an award of six-hundred billion dollars."Not surprisingly, the court isn't buying it:
Plaintiff maintains Wal–Mart accepted the contract by its “act” of replying to his e-mail....The e-mails from Plaintiff are self-serving documents that did not form the basis for any conduct or performance on Wal–Mart's part....In this case, Wal–Mart performed no act. It merely replied to two e-mails by directing the Plaintiff to the correct department. It performed no service and Plaintiff made no promise.Obviously, this particular case is something of a joke, but given how often people seek to claim that a contract has been entered into on dubious terms (such as replying to an email), perhaps a bit of reasonable caselaw comes out of this...