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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

John Oliver and Sarah Silverman Tackle Payday Loans

On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver was joined by Sarah Silverman and they took on the payday loan industry.  Here's the clip (NSFW, especially Sarah Silverman's bit at the end):

From the pseudo PSA at the end of the clip: “Hi, I’m Sarah Silverman. If you’re considering taking out a payday loan, I’d like to tell you about a great alternative.  It’s called ‘anything else.’  The way it works is, instead of taking out a payday loan you literally do anything else.”

[Meredith R. Miller]

August 12, 2014 in Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Eighth Circuit Shuts Down the Real Napster CEO

Christopher Gorog was the CEO of Roxio, Inc., which acquired Napster in 2002.  He thereby become the CEO of Napster, which was acquired by Best Buy in 2009.  Gorog entered into an Employment Agreement with Best Buy, which provided that he would stay on as a Napster employee, with Napster now a wholly-owned Best Buy subsidiary.  The Employment Agreement included a $3 milllion performance award to which Gorog would be entitled based on his and the company's performance on four target dates if he were still employed by Napster.  

At the end of 2009, Gorog resigned.  In 2011, Best Buy sold Napster to Rhapsody, an Internet Music Service.  Gorog signed a Separation Agreement which provided that Gorog’s employment would be terminated without cause and that Gorog would not release any claims to a performance award.  Gorog sued claiming that he was entitled to performance awards despite his resignation.  The District Court found that Gorog's best arguments rose under Section 2.4(b) of the relevant Award Agreement:

(b) If, prior to the end of the Performance Period, your
employment is terminated by Napster without Cause or you
terminate your employment with Napster for Good Reason,
the Performance Period will continue and you will be
entitled to receive a Performance Award equal to a pro-rata
portion, based on the number of Whole Months you served
during the Performance Period, of the Performance Award
that otherwise would have been earned in accordance with
the Performance Criteria Schedule . . . . 

The Distirct Court dismissed Gorog's claims finding that he did not meet the performance criteria under the section. 

In appealing to the Eighth Circuit in Gorog v. Best Buy, Inc.Gorog relied on Section 2.4(c) of the Award Agreement which he claimed was not mutually exclusive with Section 2.4(b).  Section 2.4(c) provides that 

If, prior to the Performance Target Date, majority
ownership of Napster (or any successor entity) is sold by
Best Buy or spun-off to its shareholders, or if the venture
ceases operations (the “Event”), you shall be entitled to
receive a Performance Award equal to 100% of the
Performance Award Target Value, regardless of whether
the Performance Criteria have been met. . . .

Gorog claimed that the fact that he was no longer employed at Napster was irrelevant to the question of his entitlement to a performance award, as that award was triggered by the sale of Napster.  

The Eighth Circuit sided with Best Buy, which argued that the two provisions are indeed mutually exclusive.  Read in context, the Court noted, each section of Section 2.4 relates to conditions of Gorog's termination that would entitle him to a performance award.  The Court also found no way to reconcile Gorog's claim that the provisions of Section 2.4 were not mutually exclusive with other terms in his agreement with Best Buy.

Once again, life fails to imitate art (if the amusing heist movie The Italian Job is art):

August 4, 2014 in Film Clips, Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halftime Show: Is the wholesomeness of the NFL M.I.A?

NFL v. MIA: we've mentioned issues related to this incident on this blog in the past.  But, if you ask me, it just got good.

Here's the background: at the 2012 Superbowl, this little flip of the bird happened during the halftime show:

The NFL has since sued (in arbitration) M.I.A. (the bird-flipping artist in the video above) for $1.5 million.  The NFL’s claim?  It claims that M.I.A. breached her contract because the “offensive gesture” was “in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl."  In the contract, she apparently acknowledged “the great value of the goodwill associated with the NFL and the tremendous public respect and reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed by the NFL."

The case, it sounds, comes down to what is “offensive” and what exactly are the “wholesome” values of the NFL.  This FoxSports column does a great job explaining why the lawsuit is “laughable” – with video footage as evidence of just how wholesome the NFL is.

A video of M.I.A. has recently surfaced.  In the video, she (rather articulately) explains the absurdity of the lawsuit.  As 411Mania.com describes:

[M.I.A.] says the NFL is "scapegoating me into trying to set the goalpost for what is offensive in America." She notes that the picture in which she is seen giving the middle finger also has a group of sixteen year-old girls who were selected from a high school in Indianapolis who are in cheerleader outfits with their "hips thrusted in the air, legs wide open, in this very sexual...sexually provocative position."

Here’s M.I.A. regarding the lawsuit, which she describes as  "a massive display of... powerful corporation dick shaking."  In light of the 16-year-old cheerleaders on stage behind her, she frames the issue in the lawsuit as whether female sexual exploitation or empowerment is more offensive.  Interesting stuff:

[Meredith R. Miller]

September 26, 2013 in Film Clips, In the News, Music, Sports, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School on Monday

Touro Law starts up on Monday.  Around this time of year, I am always reminded of this Rodney Dangerfield clip from the movie Back to School:

Dangerfield to Econ Prof: "What's a widget?"

Econ Prof: "It is a fictional product.  It doesn't matter."

Dangerfield: "Doesn't matter? Tell that to the bank."

Have a great semester!

[Meredith R. Miller]

August 16, 2013 in Film Clips, Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 15, 2013

What Does the Cruise Contract Say?

CNN's Erin Burnett did some intrepid reporting and "went to book a cruise . . .  on Carnival so we could look at the contract..."  The contract apparently says that, even after 5 days of being stuck on a disabled ship with no electricity or plumbing, "you're out of luck": 

Shute v. Carnival Cruise Lines reprise?

[Meredith R. Miller]

February 15, 2013 in Film Clips, In the News, Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Update: Maher Takes Aim at Trump's Lawyer

We had previously blogged about the demand letter that Donald Trump sent to Bill Maher.  Maher dedicated a segment on his show to the dispute, taking aim at Trump's lawyer.  Maher begins: “Donald Trump must learn two things: what a joke is and what a contract is.”  

The segment is reminiscent of the Leonard v. Pepsico decision when Judge Wood takes on the task of explaining why the harrier jet commercial was "evidently done in jest." Here, Maher continues the humor in explaining why it was parody when challenged Trump to prove that he (Trump) was not born of an orangutan.

Here's the clip:

[Meredith R. Miller]

February 12, 2013 in Celebrity Contracts, Current Affairs, Film Clips, In the News, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Of Hobbits and Contracts

The other night, I finally got to see The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  Having recently spent several months in New Zealand (the home of Peter Jackson’s Weta studio), I had been surrounded by Hobbit-mania and was interested to see whether the movie proved worthy of the hype.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Although some critics were, well, critical, I thought it was an extremely entertaining movie that made time fly.  Making a highly entertaining movie even better, a lengthy contract played a pivotal role.  When Gandalf the Wizard, and Thorin and his company of dwarves seek Bilbo Baggins’ (i.e. the aforesaid hobbit’s) assistance to accompany them as burglar on an unexpected journey, they first ask him to sign a contract.  The contract, several pages long, outlines in detail his compensation (i.e. consideration) and contains warnings and numerous disclaimers of liability in favor of Thorin & Co.  Being a wise hobbit, Bilbo actually reads the contract, faints, and then refuses to sign it. The next morning, he awakens to a quiet house (dwarves know how to party, but apparently do so responsibly). Bilbo has a change of heart, decides he does want excitement and adventure, signs the contract, picks it up, and runs out of his house to join the departing dwarves.  This is where --for a contracts prof -- the tension is most high.  Having rejected the terms of the contract the night before, we know that the hobbit no longer has the power of acceptance.  Therefore, when Bilbo thrusts his signed contract into the hands of one of the dwarves, he is only making an offer.  It is the dwarf (who apparently has authority to accept on behalf of the other dwarves) who has the power of acceptance.  I don’t think I need a spoiler alert before revealing that they do accept (there wouldn’t be much of a movie if they didn’t). 

There were so many things to like about the movie, not the least of which was the way it illustrated how relational contracts set expectations, shape relationships and establish trust. At one point, Bilbo seeks to desert the dwarves. Although one could argue changed circumstances, I think a better explanation would be that given Thorin’s disparaging comments about Bilbo’s suitability for the journey, Bilbo decides to adjust his performance obligations accordingly.  But events (and the always fascinating Gollum) intervene.  In the end, Bilbo carries out his contractual obligations, proving that - even in Middle Earth - contracts are alive and well.

[Nancy Kim]

 

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2012 in Film, Film Clips, Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Study Break: Visions of Leonard v. Pepsico on 30 Rock

In a recent episode of 30 Rock ("Mazel Tov, Dummies!"), Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) gets married.  Liz attempts to subvert the wedding industrial complex by tying the knot in her gym clothes at City Hall.  She fights any desire to make it a "special day," leading her boyfriend/fiance to tell her "it is ok to be a human woman."

Interesting for our purposes: there is a sub-plot in the episode that is reminiscent of Leonard v. Pepsico. It begins at a little past 4 minutes into the episode.  A creepy character played by John Hodgman comes to collect a woman (the character Jenna Maroney) that he says he earned by collecting $1,000,0000 Surge points.  Surge is a soda and his claim to the money is based on a tv advertisement.  The Surge points catalogue entitles Hodgman to the item or its equivalent value.  Since it is "illegal to own someone," Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) has to determine Jenna's value (and Jenna is not happy with the assessment of her worth).

Take a study/grading break:

[Meredith R. Miller - h/t 1L Matthew Gray]

December 5, 2012 in Film Clips, Miscellaneous, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Get Screwed Over

Docracy is an open source legal document site.  The site has launched a video campaign called "Don't Get Screwed Over" - it very effectively conveys the importance of freelancers having written contracts:

A free open source contract site is a great idea. I am not convinced, however, that it obviates the need for an attorney.  That said, it is true that, regardless of whether an attorney is involved, freelancers should always get their deals in writing and carefully express expecations and payment schedule.  The site's founder Matt Hall appears to share in my sentiment and believes that his site is a starting point for freelancers to figure out what they need and to find an attorney.  Hall told .net magazine:

[T]he video was designed to "make sure freelancers are aware how important it is to have a contract for work they do, and that there are resources like Docracy that can take the fear and mystery out of the process". He said it's increasingly common that freelancers don't get paid for work they've done, starkly highlighted by projects like the World's Longest Invoice.

Hall recommended "upfront and clear communication with your client about what's expected, when it's expected and when you'll be paid", and then getting this all down in writing and signed. "Clear communication can go a long way to avoiding problems in the future," he added. And while Docracy can be a starting point, Hall said such sites are not a replacement for proper legal advice: "A good lawyer who understands your business will save you money over the long term, so get educated and then find a good lawyer you like working with. We have a bunch of great, tech-savvy lawyers on the site who have already shown their willingness to help freelancers, so they might be a good start."

[Meredith R. Miller]

August 14, 2012 in Film Clips, Miscellaneous, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lucy van Pelt Ponders Fundamental Contractual Issues

Since Meredith has decided to take an unpaid leave-of-absence this summer, we have to take some short-cuts to make sure we can continue to feed our readers' voracious hunger for new contracts-related stimuli.

Here, for example, is a YouTube clip that bears the caption "All I need to know about contracts"

The comments following the video suggest that 1) Charlie Brown's cause of action would lie in promissory estoppel, not in contract; or 2) that the contract is binding if signed by both parties even in the absence of notarization.

As Charlie Brown might say to express exasperation in this context, *Sigh*.  Isn't this obviously a case of tort rather than breach of contract?  What contractual damages has Charlie suffered?  What non-tort damages would he have based on a theory of promissory estoppel?

[JT]

May 25, 2012 in Commentary, Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Hot Dogs Don't Have Contracts...."

Yup, an ad for internet service:

[Meredith R. Miller]

May 24, 2012 in Film Clips, Food and Drink, Miscellaneous, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hitler's Take on the Chicken Case

Ever wonder how the facts and primary arguments in Frigaliment, a.k.a. The Chicken Case, could be illustrated via a humorous video clip involving Hitler?  Yeah, me neither.  Until now

 

Last night, a former student of mine sent me a link to a "Hitler Rant" on this very case.  For those who, like me, are too old and boring busy to have heard of HItler Rants before, they are an internet meme in which various "authors" craft humorous captions on all sorts of topics and insert them into the same clip from the critically-acclaimed German film, Downfall.  For those who, like me, are children of the '80s, think Mad Libs for movie trailers.  (Our fearless leader, Jeremy Telman, previously blogged about the phenomenon, and its application to contract doctrine, here.)  As you likely recall, in Frigaliment, the core of the dispute was whether an agreement to purchase "chicken" should be interpreted as applying to only "young" chicken or any chicken.  As for the Hitler Rant regarding Frigaliment?  Well, you just have to see it for yourself

[Heidi R. Anderson, h/t anonymous student]

November 8, 2011 in Famous Cases, Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

By Popular Demand

So, if a popular movie making fun of the misuse of "plethora" has no effect (perhaps even exacerbates the phenomenon?), what hope is there for a mere blawg to have an impact?

[JT] 

November 3, 2011 in Film Clips, Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Must See TV: Hot Coffee Premieres on HBO on Monday 6/27

Trust me when I tell you that it is very difficult to get friends, family, students and acquaintances engaged in a meaningful discussion of "mandatory arbitration."  Trust me further that there is now a wonderful documentary that manages to make this and other civil justice topics interesting and engaging for everyone.  (Indeed, my viewing companion, proudly not a lawyer, turned to me at one point in the movie and whispered "didn't you write a paper about something like that?")

Last night, I was fortunate enough to invite myself via twitter get invited to a screening of Hot Coffee at HBO.  Hot Coffee is a must see documentary about the way that business interests, "tort reform," judicial elections and "mandatory arbitration" have systematically worked in concert to deny plaintiffs access to civil justice.  It is the work of the energetic and passionate director Susan Saladoff who spent 25 years as a trial lawyer before becoming a filmmaker.  The documentary is well-conceived and thought provoking.  It takes some very complex topics and organizes them and presents them through compelling personal stories.  

The title "Hot Coffee" refers to the iconic case that is ubiquitous in pop culture as a symbol of the frivolous lawsuit: the woman who sued McDonalds because she was served a coffee that was too hot.  The film starts very strong by retelling this story through interviews with the plaintiff's family.  This challenged me (and from the gasps in the theater, I suspect everyone else viewing the film) to see the case in an entirely different light.  With that strong start, the viewer is engaged and ready to hear about damage caps, judicial elections and mandatory arbitration in consumer and employment contracts.

Here's the trailer:

After the film, there was a Q&A session moderated by Jeffrey Toobin.  He appeared to receive the movie very favorably, noting that the fine print in a cell phone contract is not one of the sexy topics that CNN hires him to discuss on the evening news segments (which reminded me of this Dahlia Lithwick piece in Slate, which seemed to begrudgingly report on AT&T v Concepcion).  

Toobin did mention one frustration, which could be leveled as a critique of the film -- that it only presents one point of view.  Notably absent and/or unwilling to participate were voices from the "other side," i.e., those in favor of damage caps and mandatory arbitration.  Saladoff's response, I thought, hit the nail on the head: in so many words, she said that she wanted to tell this side of the story, and the voices in favor of these reforms already had a well-financed platform (and, indeed, overtaken the public consciousness).  Perhaps I am partial to her response because her film paints a picture in line with my world view, and I am just so thrilled to finally see an engaging and accessible presentation explaining the systematic erosion of civil justice at the behest of corporate interests.

Our students come to law school generally ignorant of or misinformed about tort reform, mandatory arbitration and many of the other topics presented in this film.  However, they do at least know of handful of cases -- OJ, Bush v Gore and, of course, the hot coffee case.  I have no doubt that this film will be used in the classroom.  It is masterfully done and captivates those uninitiated with these topics as well as those who have studied them (and even includes a few clips of interviews with George Lakoff).  Please tune in to HBO on Monday night.

[Meredith R. Miller]

June 22, 2011 in Current Affairs, Famous Cases, Film, Film Clips, Law Schools, Miscellaneous, Teaching, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ambassador Seeks New Posting

Yesterday's New York Times reported that Beverly Hills, California has let go its ambassador, Gregg Donovan, who for the past decade has greeted tourists in a top hat and red tailcoat with polyglot shouts of "Welcome to Beverly Hills!"  According to the Times, the official position of Beverly Hills Ambassador was created to help establish a friendlier atmosphere on Rodeo Drive after it developed a bad reputation when a fictional storekeeper demeaned a fictional prostitute played by Julia Roberts in a film about how the real lives of prostitutes are really quite a bit like the lives of every other character Ms. Roberts has ever portrayed.  This is a bit confusing, since as the clip below illustrates, the simple solution is not to have the government throw money at problems by hiring yet another public employee at taxpayer expense.  The solution, as any self-respecting woman knows, is to have a rich guy pay to enhance the self-esteem of working women.

 

Although Mr. Donovan is "without a doubt" the human being most photographed by tourists in the world, we have no copyright-free photograph to share, perhaps in part due to a contract dispute over Beverly Hills' right to continue to use Mr. Donovan's image in its brochures.  When Beverly Hills gave Mr. Donovan his notice, it sent him a separation agreement in which he was to permit the city to continue to use his image in its promotional materials.  Mr. Donovan refused to sign.  According to the Times, he will still occasionally shout greetings to people on Rodeo Drive, just out of sheer love of his vocation, but he is also looking for other gigs. 

Anybody out there looking for an ambassador?  New York?  Hollywood?  Las Vegas? 

Actually, after The Paper Chase, perhaps Harvard Law would benefit from an ambassador in Mr. Donovan's mold. 

[JT]

February 9, 2011 in Commentary, Film Clips, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Darth Vader wants in the contract, he gets in the contract

For anyone looking for a clip to accompany the teaching of modification, the pre-existing legal duty rule, duress, negotiations or The Law of Star Wars, I offer this 1-minute excerpt from Robot Chicken, a show in the Adult Swim block on Comedy Central, which often parodies pop culture. This particular parody focuses on a deal between Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian that Darth Vader repeatedly "modifies."  

Two important warnings before you watch: (i) the clip includes a few bleeped-out expletives, and (ii) you may find yourself unable to stop repeating Vader's catch phrase for at least two hours after viewing.  

Hat tip to my TA for passing this along to me (I am way too old busy to be watching shows like this one.)

[HRA]

 

January 21, 2011 in Film Clips, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Superior bargaining power, for sure

It's not clear whether this is duress, or undue influence, or unconscionability, or something else, but Charyl Preston (Utah) passes on this link she got from a student:

FGS 

November 10, 2010 in Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

There's one one horror film I know of where the heroes include a business lawyer and a university professor, but that one is one of the best.  It was the scariest of my childhood, hands down.

  

FGS

October 31, 2010 in Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Red Owl, Professor Kingsfield, and Mary Tyler Moore

Over at Conglomerate, Gordon Smith weaves the connections between growing up in Wisconsin, teaching Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores, and watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Paper Chase.

Turns out that MTM went shopping at a Red Owl store in Minneapolis -- as you can see on the video of the show's opening he's posted on the site.  I'm older than Gordon, but I enjoyed the show, too, though the bit of trivia I recall is "Whose jersey is she wearing while washing the car?"

Unlike Gordon, I wasn't a fan of The Paper Chase,  I was more into a short-lived show called The Storefront Lawyers.  I don't have a video, but here are the Ventures with the show's VERY cool opening theme -- which fortunately doesn't sound anything like Seals & Crofts: 

  

Speaking of Hoffman, be sure to check out Bill Whitford's and Stewart Macauley's fascinating backgrounder, Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores: The Rest of the Story.

FGS

P.S. She's wearing Fran Tarkenton's #10 Minnesota Vikings jersey. 

October 26, 2010 in Famous Cases, Film Clips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Daily Show on the Double Standard of Strategic Default