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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Real-life hypo on contract conditions

A One mate's lack of a fishing license has led to the loss of a $1.2 million prize for the crew of a Hatteras (N.C.) fishing boat and a suit for breach of contract.

Andy Thomasson of the boat Citation ()left) caught a record 883-pound blue marlin during the 53rd Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament at Morehead City, N.C.  The fish was big enough to earn the $1.2 million top prize.

But it turns out one of the men on Thomasson's boat failed to get a $30 North Carolina nonresident fishing license before catching the fish -- which tournament organizers say is a violation of tournament rules.  The tournament has disqualified Thomasson and the fish.  The boat's crew has filed suit iagainst the Tournament in Dare Count Circuit Court, which has frozen the payment pending resolution.

Presumably the Tournament's argument is that having a license was a condition for participating in the event, and the law generally requires strict compliance with express conditions.  But the crew would argue Restatement (Contracts) ยง 229:  "To the extent that the non-occurrence of a condition would cause disproportionate forfeiture, a court may excuse the non-occurrence of that condition unless its occurrence was a material part of the agreed exchange."  It seems unlikely that possession of the license was a "material part of the agreed exchange," and the forfeiture here would be "disproportionate."  But the fact that the condition is compliance with state law might throw a spanner into the works.

FGS

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