ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Jones

Forty years ago today, August 30, 1965, Bob Dylan released the album Highway 61 Revisited.  It went on to peak at number 3 on the Billboard album charts, but it will finish fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of the top albums of all time.  From Ballad of a Thin Man:

You've been with the professors
And they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

[Frank Snyder]

August 30, 2005 in In the News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New consumer protection rules in Victoria

Victoria_flag New consumer protection regulations in Victoria, Australia, should make sellers more careful in the use of “asterisks and disclaimers” in their advertising, and in putting conditions on their offers in small print.  That’s the conclusion of Eleanor Scacco and Verity Shepherdson of Melbourne’s Freehills, in a recent client advisory, Now There are Even More Reasons to Trade Fair.

[Frank Snyder]

August 30, 2005 in Commentary | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Today in History: August 30

1850: King Kamehameha III proclaims Honolulu as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  His father had conquered Oahu in 1804.

1879: Former Confederate General John Bell Hood, who has gone into the insurance business in New Orleans after the war, sees his business wiped out by a yellow fever epidemic, which also kills him and his wife and leaves ten destitute orphans.

1918: An assassin wounds Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.  Ten thousand suspects will shortly be executed and another 70,000 sent to Siberia.

1919: Country Music queen Muriel Deason (a/k/a Kitty Wells) is born at Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1952 she’ll record the first feminist country song, It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels for Decca, which will become the first number 1 country single by a woman.

1930: Warren Edward Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, is born, the son of a congressman, at Omaha, Nebraska.

1940: Neil Swinton discovers there are termites in the house that was sold him by the Whitinsville Savings Bank.  Whitinsville will merge in 1988 with another to form UniBank.

1962: Nippon Aircraft Manufacturing Co. tests its new aircraft, the YS-11, the only successful commercial aircraft ever produced in Japan.

1967: The U.S. Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall (Howard Law 1933) as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

1993: NBC Late Night star David Letterman jumps to CBS for The Late Show.  NBC refuses to let the new show have the rights to the “Viewer Mail” segment, so the new show calls it “CBS Mailbag.”

2002: The last privately owned subway in America, the 0.7 mile-long Tandy Center Subway in Fort Worth, Texas, closes its doors.  It had been built by the Leonards family department store in 1963 to connect the store to parking.

August 30, 2005 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Weekend News Roundup

The agent who says he sold the idea of Sex and the City to HBO is suing author Candace Bushnell, who created it, claiming an agreement to give him 10 percent of the profits she earned.

The financially troubled Eurotunnel is being sued by its main sales agents, who claim its conspired to get confidential information to help it break its contracts with them.

A “politically connected” firm whose contract was terminated by the state of Illinois for “defraud[ing] the state out of tens of thousands of dollars” is suing to have its contract reinstated.

Boeing has unveiled an “improved” offer to its machinists; the deal does not include a general pay raise but does include some cash payments to workers.

In Pakistan there’s debate over construction of a thermal power station, with some pushing for a sole-source agreement with a Japanese firm (backed by a Japanese government loan) and others calling for an international competition going to the low bidder.

Striking faculty at Youngstown State University have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, allowing classes to start today.

America’s Hunt Oil Company has landed an oil exploration contract for about 9.5 million acres in Namibia’s Luderitz Basin offshore area.

The management contract for D.C.’s proposed new $280 million baseball stadium has been awarded to a Maryland firm.

August 29, 2005 in In the News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Martin visits at UDC

Charles_martin The University of the District of Columbia’s Clarke School of Law has a contracts visitor this year, Charles H. Martin, who joins the school as a visiting associate professor of law.  UDC got full ABA accreditation on August 8.  (Belated congratulations!)

Martin is an internationalist as well as an experienced practitioner.  He earned a B.A. at Harvard, a J.D. at UC-Berkeley, and an M.B.A. from Columbia.  He practiced with Hogan & Hartson, the U.S. Department of the Navy, the D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel, and the Florida Office of Legal Affairs, and taught at Villanova and Florida State, before joining Sallie Mae, where he worked for 14 years.  In that job he was responsible, among other things,  for negotiating contracts for taxable and tax-exempt funding for colleges and universities.

He’s been a Visiting Faculty Fellow of the Civic Education Project, teaching law in Baku, Azerbaijan, and taught graduate and undergraduate students at the Open Society Institute’s Network Scholarships Pre-Academic Summer Program in Istanbul, Turkey.  In addition to Contracts, he’ll be teaching International Business Transactions and Commercial Law.

[Frank Snyder]

August 29, 2005 in Contract Profs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Lessons for E-Mail Modification of Contracts

The First Circuit's recent opinion in Campbell v. General Dynamics Government Systems Corp. illustrates the perils of attempting to use e-mail to amend an existing contract.  Arising in the employment context, General Dynamics sent a mass e-mail to all of its employees, announcing a new mandatory arbitration policy.  The new policy was to be effective beginning the following day.  When Campbell, a General Dynamics employee, filed an ADA lawsuit against his employer, General Dynamics moved to dismiss based on the arbitration policy.  The district court denied the motion, and the First Circuit affirmed, holding that the e-mail had not effectively amended the employment contract by adding the arbitration policy.

The First Circuit identified several problems with General Dynamics' attempted use of e-mail to amend the contract.  First, General Dynamics did not require any response to the mass e-mail announcing the policy, instead indicating that "no response was required."  The First Circuit took issue with this methodology:

One way that General Dynamics could have set this particular communication apart from the crowd would have been to require a response to the e-mail. Instead, the company opted for a 'no response required' format. Within the context of this particular employment relationship, in which significant personnel matters historically had been transacted via signed documents, this choice disguised the import of the communication. Signing an acknowledgment or, in a more modern context, clicking a box on a computer screen, are acts associated with entering into contracts. Requiring an affirmative response of that sort would have signaled that the Policy was contractual in nature.

This language, of course, is consistent with the general "clickwrap" line of cases which hold that clicking assent with a mouse is a valid means of manifesting contractual assent to a bargain.  The court also held, however, that the substantive content of the e-mail was lacking in contractual formality as well:

To be blunt, the e-mail announcement undersold the significance of the Policy and omitted the critical fact that it contained a mandatory arbitration agreement. The result was that a reasonable employee could read the e-mail announcement and conclude that the Policy presented an optional alternative to litigation rather than a mandatory replacement for it.

[Wayne Barnes]

August 29, 2005 in Recent Cases | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Weekly Top 10

Ssrn_logo_21 Following are the top ten most-downloaded papers from the SSRN Journal of Contract and Commercial Law for the 60 days ending August 28, 2005.  Last week's position in parentheses; t = tied.

1 (1) Understanding the Current Wave of Procurement Reform - Devolution of the Contracting Function, Christopher R. Yukins (Geo. Washington)

2 (3) On Collaboration, Organizations, and Conciliation in the General Theory of Contract, Ethan J. Leib (UC-Hastings)

3 (4) Decisionmaking & the Limits of Disclosure: The Problem of Predatory Lending, Lauren E. Willis (Loyola-L.A.)

4 (5) The Posthumous Life of the Postal Rule Requiem and Revival of Adams v. Lindsell, Peter Goodrich (Cardozo)

5 (6t)  Friends in High Places: Amity and Agreement in Alsatia, Peter Goodrich (Cardozo)

6 (6t) On-line Boilerplate: Would Mandatory Website Disclosure of E-standard Terms Backfire?, Robert A. Hillman (Cornell)

7 (8) The Limits of Lawyering: Legal Opinions in Structured Finance, Steven L. Schwarcz (Duke)

8 (9t) New Basics: 12 Principles for Fair Commerce in Mass-Market Software and Other Digital Products, Jean Braucher (Arizona)

9 (-) Is Forum-Shopping Corrupting America's Bankruptcy Courts?, Todd J. Zywicki (Geo. Mason)

10 (9t) Evolving Business and Social Norms and Interpretation Rules: The Need for a Dynamic Approach to Contract Disputes, Nancy Kim (Cal Western)

[Frank Snyder]

August 29, 2005 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Authors to Auction Character Names

To support the First Amendment Project, 16 U.S. authors are each auctioning the right to name a character (or place) in their next book. The authors include Stephen King, John Grisham, Amy Tan, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, Andrew Sean Greer and Dorothy Allison. The auctions begin on ebay on September 1, where the complete (and amusing) list of the authors' offerings is available.

Stephen King is offering for auction:

One (and only one) character name in a novel called CELL, which is now in work and which will appear in either 2006 or 2007. Buyer should be aware that CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I'll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don't give a rip).

Jonathan Lethem is offering for auction:

I need the name of a Columbia University professor for a comic book I'm writing for Marvel. It can be your name or the name of a friend -- but if it's a friend, I need to hear from them with their permission.

John Grisham is offering for auction:

Your name or a name of your choosing will appear as a fictional character in my next novel.  The character will be portrayed in a good light.  My next novel should be published either in 2007 or 2008.   The name you choose cannot be that of a real person other than yourself.

[Meredith R. Miller]

August 29, 2005 in In the News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Today in History: August 29

1632: English political economist and philosopher John Locke is born in at Wrington in Somerset.

1769: Edmond Hoyle, a man who gave up training as a barrister to become a whist tutor and authoritative author on games, dies at age 97.  In 1979 he’ll be a charter inductee to the Poker Hall of Fame at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas.

1786: Angry farmers, calling for lower taxes, higher inflation, and elected judges, rebel in western Massachusetts under the leadership of a former Revolutionary War soldier, Daniel Shays.

1885: Gottlieb Daimler gets a patent for the world’s first motorcycle.

1898: Frank Seiberling founds the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., with 13 employees who make bicycle and carriage tires, rubber pads for horseshoes, and poker chips.

1911: The last member of the Yahi tribe -- and the last Native American to have lived is life completely outside the European-American environment -- comes down out of the hills near Oroville, California.  He’s taken into custody, and will spend the rest of his life living at the University of California Museum of Anthropology.

1952: John Cage, the man who will prove that a “feeling for harmony” is not required to be successful as a serious composer, debuts his famous 4' 33" at Woodstock, New York.

1994: Viacom, Inc., announces that it will buy video rental giant Blockbuster Entertainment for $8 billion.

August 29, 2005 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Foreseeable damages: Delay in envirnomental clean-up

A landowner whose lease contains a provision that the tenant is responsible for removing oil tanks and fixing any environmental problems can claim damages for the entire time the property is tied up before the government gets around to issuing a letter approving the clean-up, according to a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Bonni Kaufman of Holland & Knight’s D.C. office has a rundown of the case and the implications.

[Frank Snyder]

August 28, 2005 in Commentary | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Help Wanted

Seattle_university Seattle University School of Law is seeking to hire a tenure-track professor to teach in the commercial law field.  They have particular interest in:  UCC sales and secured transactions; bankruptcy; and payment systems.  "International commercial law would also be a desirable complement to the American commercial law courses taught."  The school will consider both entry-level and experienced candidates.

For further information and a full statement of University hiring policies, interested parties should contact the Chair of the Appointments Committee, Professor Lily Kahng.  You can e-mail her here, or write by mail to:
Seattle University School of Law
901 12th Avenue
Seattle WA 98122

[Frank Snyder]

August 28, 2005 in Help Wanted | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Today in History: August 28

1521: Belgrade, the White City, is captured and burned by Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Turks.

1565: On the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founds a settlement on an outlet of the Matanzas River in Florida.  Today St. Augustine is the second-oldest city in the U.S., after San Juan, Puerto Rico.

1609: Henry Hudson makes the first recorded visit to what will become known as Delaware Bay.

1830: The 13-mile-long Baltimore & Ohio Railroad begins the first steam railroad passenger and freight service in the U.S.

1898: Caleb Bradham, a druggist in New Bern, North Carolina, changes the name of his “Brad’s Drink” beverage to “Pepsi-Cola.”  He picks “Pepsi” because the drink is first sold as a remedy for dyspepsia.

1900: Philosopher Henry Sidgwick (The Methods of Ethics) dies of cancer at age 62.

1953: Nippon Television broadcasts Japan’s first TV commercial.

1963: On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his I Have a Dream speech.

August 28, 2005 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)