November 3, 2006
Barak Richman on the Original Bridge to Nowhere
Those who teach Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co. may be interested in recent scholarship by Barak Richman of Duke Law School, which provides the full historical background to that case and answers the inevitable question: Why would anyone build a bridge to nowhere?
The Little Tugboat that Did
In October of 2003, when the Staten Island ferry crashed into a concrete pier, a mate on the Dorothy J. tugboat put down his newspaper and went to assist in the salvage of the ferry. Apparently, the crew of the Dorothy J. never got a thank you for their rescue efforts. And, according to the NY Times, the tugboat mate has sued in the EDNY seeking a reward for their actions on that day. The theory: “pure marine salvage.” This is apparently an old admiralty law from a line of cases that requires the rescuer to show “that the salvaged vessel was in peril of being lost or destroyed, that the service rendered was voluntary, and that the service was a success.” The salvage law is obviously meant to encourage mariners to assist one another even when they are putting their own commercial interests at risk.
The City’s defense (at least in part) seems to be: the tugboat was only doing what it had a preexisting duty to do under its contract – i.e., move ferries. The tugboat mate responds that moving ferries normally would require two tugboats and a pilot to direct the effort – i.e., this well beyond the scope of what we had originally agreed to undertake.
The price tag for the work of a good Samaritan: the tugboat mate seeks a $6 million reward. If he doesn’t get the money? Well, then the purpose of the “pure marine salvage” line of case law will be thwarted: next time there is a disaster like the Staten Island ferry crash, he will just “keep [his] head in the paper and keep reading.”
[Meredith R. Miller]
November 1, 2006
Contracts Prof Weekly Spotlight: Jack Graves
Jack Graves arrived as a member of the legal academy having traveled a somewhat more circuitous path than many. Before attending law school, Jack spent fifteen years in business management—serving as a CFO, COO, and President of various private and publicly held corporations. Jack ultimately left the business world for law school, earning his degree from the University of Colorado in 1994. Following law school, Jack first clerked for the Honorable David M. Ebel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and then joined the law firm of Chrisman, Bynum & Johnson, P.C. (now the Boulder, Colorado office of Faegre & Benson LLP). Six years later, Jack left the world of law practice for legal academia.
Jack has been a “well traveled” law professor to date, having taught Contracts at the University of Colorado School of Law, Stetson Unive rsity College of Law, and, now, Touro Law School. Along with Contracts, Jack teaches a variety of other courses related to business law, but his favorite is a course he initially developed while at Stetson and expects to be teaching at Touro next fall—International Sales Law & Arbitration. His recent scholarship has focused on party autonomy in choice of contract law, as well as a pedagogical article on teaching international commercial law and arbitration. He is currently working on a casebook intended for use in teaching international sales law and arbitration together in a fully integrated manner. Jack’s scholarly interests also mesh well with his continuing service as a coach of law student teams in the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.
When not teaching, writing, or thinking about law, Jack is an avid outdoor enthusiast, including climbing (see photo – Alps ’06), cycling, kayaking, and skiing.
*Photo caption: Is my helicopter rescue contract specifically enforceable in a Swiss court?
October 31, 2006
Hell.com: hot address?
This past Friday, the domain name Hell.com went up for sale. Before the auction, the W$J reported (subscription required):
Hell.com is scheduled to be offered in a live auction organizers predict will draw bids of more than $1 million. The hot market for domain names, the addresses people often type in for Web sites, is being fueled by the surge in Internet advertising and the ease with which domain owners can make money from ads brokered by the likes of Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.
Sex.com sold for about $12 million earlier this year and Diamond.com changed hands for $7.5 million. The big-money domain-name sales echo an earlier boom, when Business.com fetched $7.5 million in 1999. Today's live auction of 300 names, by Seevast Corp.'s Moniker unit, includes more than a handful it predicts will generate bids of more than $1 million, including Iran.com, Auction.com and Elections.com.
The company that owns Hell.com marketed the sale as "the opportunity to redefine what hell means, at least on the Internet." The company's founder set the reserve price at $2.3 million; but a domain-name appraiser put Hell.com's value at $625,000 -- based (of course?) on comparison to the revenue from advertisements on Heaven.com.
Yesterday, the W$J reported: "Hell.com failed to sell during a live auction of Internet domain names on Friday, as no bidders met the $2.3 million reserve price set by its seller."
[Meredith R. Miller]
October 30, 2006
Center for Contract and Economic Organization at Columbia
[H/T: David Hoffman at Concurring Opinions]
[Meredith R. Miller]
A $139 Million Elbow
I live in Valparaiso, Indiana, and so my New Yorker comes long after my friends back in New York City have lost all interest in its content. So forgive me if you have moved on, but I was struck by this Nick Paumgarten entry in Talk of the Town. The article recounts not one but two broken promises that apparently will not result in law suits.
The subject of the first promise is a celebrated Picasso painting, "Le Reve," owned by Steve Wynn, a casino magnate and art collector. Wynn had recently agreed to sell the painting to a friend for $139 million. The painting had been inspected and the only performance remaining on the contract was the actual exchange of the painting and the money.
Before that exchange could take place, however, Wynn decided to show the painting to some friends, who were visiting from New York. While so doing, Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the painting. Understandably, Wynn was initially upset by his blunder ("Oh. shit. Oh, man."), but after he and his out-of-town guests shared a six-litre bottle of Bourdeaux, he was inclined to be more philosophical: "It's a picture, it's my picture, we'll fix it." Wynn concluded that the exchange was never fated to occur. Relying on the implied elbow-of-god provision in the purchase and sale agreement, Wynn called his friend and told him the deal was off.
The second promise relates to the out-of-town guests. They all promised not to discuss the incident. But Nora Ephron has since seen the New Yorker article and considers herself released from her promise. Speculation abounds as to who was the original leaker.
Limerick of the Week
It's a bit late in the season, but I always like to introduce the UCC with a Limerick:
There once was a man named Llewellyn
Commercial contracts' Megellyn
All stand in awe
Of his modernized lawe . . .
Hey! He modernized contracts, not spellyn!