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Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Parking Contract

Below is a parking ticket I got from a parking lot outside of a hotel I stayed at over the holidays.  The fact that the ticket announced itself as a contract caught my attention.  It was as if the busboy in a restaurant, after clearing the table and placing a towel in his waistband, pulled out a pad of paper and announced, "My name's Devon, and I'll be your server tonight."  

Nothing against busboys or servers.  They each have their designated role, and for some reason restaurants keep them separate.  If you ask a busboy to bring you some ketchup, the best he can do is pass word on to the server that you need something, who will then send over the ketchup sommelier who will intimidate you with questions about what you have in mind for what he calls "catsup," what kind of tomato you prefer and if there was a particular vintage you had in mind.  Similarly, it seems a bit ambitious for a simple parking ticket to announce itself as a contract.  That's all I'm saying.

Parking Ticket

At this point, it should not shock us that our knowing assent to terms is not required for the the formation of a consumer contract, but still I found this little parking ticket a bit jarring.  The reason for that is as follows.  At the hotel at which I stayed, you actually don't use the ticket to get in and out of the parking lot; you use your room key, which has no contractual langauge written on it.  Nor were there signs elsewhere in the parking area that I noticed about limitations of liability.  I got the ticket because I parked my car before getting my room key.  

Moreover, the information provided does not seem adequate to establish a contract.  How long can I park my car?  What do I pay for the license to do so.  That information was not provided to me until I checked in to the hotel.  If I had just wandered into that parking lot without checking into the hotel, I would have no information about parking rates, and I'm not sure how a court would go about implying a price term in this case.  Social conventions suggest that I ought to know that by taking a ticket, proceeding through a raised gate and entering a parking lot, I am agreeing to pay for the privilege, but that should not mean they can charge me whatever they please.

If I had parked outside the front entrance of the hotel, unpacked my stuff, registered and then parked my car, I would have used my room key to get into the parking lot and never have received the notice printed on the ticket.  I suspect that the hotel somehow would still have found a way to limit its liabilty for any damage to my (rental) car while it was parked in its lot, but I really have no idea how or if it matters.  It's all for the best, because this way I started my little holiday thinking about contracts.

[JT]

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Comments

At least your ticket is more effective than one I received once. It declared that "the undersigned" disclaimed all liability for damage, theft, etc., but the only name underneath the exculpatory clause was Toledo Ticket Co., the ticket supplier.

Posted by: otto | Jan 7, 2013 11:20:34 PM

In reply to: "At the hotel at which I stayed, you actually don't use the ticket to get in and out of the parking lot; you use your room key, which has no contractual langauge written on it. Nor were there signs elsewhere in the parking area that I noticed about limitations of liability. I got the ticket because I parked my car before getting my room key."
This is concerning that you would never have been alerted of your contract with the hotel security unless you had happen to park your car before checking in to the front desk. In the hotel defense this is the usual chronological order in which events would occur, however this does not take into consideration people who have travel by means of public or semi-public transportation and than rent a car after checking into the hotel. I wonder are these individuals who are not alerted of this contract, entitled on a legal level to a some level of compensation if such an event were to occur?

Posted by: Morgan Drexen SEO | Jan 10, 2013 10:11:16 AM

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