ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, June 13, 2005

Cases: Implied-in-fact contract

California_flag_8 A lawyer with an offbeat legal practice who claimed a TV producer stole his idea for a show lost his claim for an implied-in-fact contract because he couldn't prove that the producer actually used his idea, the California Court of Appeals decided in a recent case.

Jeffrey Hughes is a lawyer who runs his practice out of his Legal Grind Café.  A  patron of the café, actress DeVera Marcus, offered to get Hughes in touch with Marc Buckland, a producer and director, about maybe making a show about this unique experience.   Buckland looked it over and said his production company wasn’t  interested.  About four years later, Hughes was surprised to learn that Buckland was the co-executive producer for the new NBC show, Ed, which happens to be about a lawyer who runs his practice out of his bowling alley.

Hughes sued Buckland in 2002 for breach of implied-in-fact contract and breach of  confidence.  The trial court granted Buckland summary judgment and Hughes appealed.

To prove breach of implied-in-fact contract, said the court, the plaintiff must show (1) that he submitted his idea to Buckland; (2) he conditioned the submission on Buckland’s obligation to pay for the ideas, if Buckland used them; and (3) Buckland voluntarily accepted the disclosure of the ideas, found them valuable, and used them.   It was the third element that tripped him up.  Buckland claimed he played no role in creating the character, who was originally set to be a stock broker, and Hughes couldn't show that he had been responsible.  Summary judgment was therefore appropriate.

Hughes v. Buckland, 2005 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4808 (2d Dist., June 1, 2005).

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