ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, April 17, 2006

Did Prior Leave Prior to Completing Contract (?)

Mark Prior of the Cubs allegedly breached a contract to sign autographs at an art and home-décor store (he was paid $69,800 for his appearance).  The Chicago Tribune on-line (registration required) has the full story (quoted in part here):

Fans were disappointed, Prior acknowledged Monday while testifying in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by the store, but laid the blame on the event's lack of organization. He said he earned the $69,800 that he was paid. "I never behaved rudely in front of the fans," Prior said under cross-examination. "I tried to rectify a situation that, basically, was going south."

Testimony before Will County Circuit Judge Herman Haase showed Prior was paid $50,000 to sign 1,000 miniature porcelain replicas of Wrigley Field and $19,800 to sign 300 other pieces of memorabilia….

The store alleged Prior was rude and left after signing only 196 baseballs, pitching rubbers, bats, jerseys and the like, and 390 Wrigley replicas. The contract called for all 1,000 to be signed within 14 days of the event, the suit says.

Earlier in the trial, which will be continued until April 25 after more testimony Tuesday, a Just Ducky Too employee testified that Prior left with more than 30 people waiting for autographs.

Prior testified that an oral deal struck during the event allowed each photograph to be counted as an autograph. The agreement came after the first two dozen people in line met Prior and had their photo taken with him, the pitcher said.

But that was not how the event was supposed to work, he said. In addition, Just Ducky Too owners were asked to pull an Internet advertisement that stated each person who bought a signed stadium replica for $299 would get two "VIP tickets" to meet Prior. The ad was not pulled, he said.

"The way I read this was that there was going to be 2,000 people in front of me, versus signing 300 items—a big difference," Prior testified. "It wasn't what I agreed to do. ... It could get very lengthy."

Early in the event, a store employee "dragged" a young boy through the line, Prior said, and the boy appeared to be upset that he was told there would be no photograph with the player.

"The kid was lying there and crying and yelling," Prior said. "What I saw was kind of traumatic."

Prior said he stepped out from behind his table, signed a piece of memorabilia for the boy and allowed the two to be photographed together.

Then he excused himself and went outside, where he talked to his wife and then told the storeowners that the event was disorganized and unprofessional, he said.Prior denied using profanity, stating "absolutely not" when asked if he had done so.

Prior said when the line for autographs ended, he went to the rear of the store to sign more items and bring his total up to 300. He returned twice to the signing table after other customers showed up, before signing more items in back and leaving about 8:15 p.m., he said.

[Miriam A. Cherry]

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