Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contract written in human blood held unenforceable by California appeals court

Get this - the AP reports that two friends went to a combination karaoke bar/sushi restaurant when one of them decides he wants to write an agreement promising the other that he'll pay back the $170k he owes.  No pen?  No problem!  The first guy asks the waiter for a pin (maybe he asked for a "pen" but the waiter misunderstood?) - which for some odd reason the waiter happens to have on him - and he then "pricks" his finger so that he can write the contract in his own blood!

Maybe your experience with this kind of thing is different than mine - but whenever I stab myself with a pin, it never even draws enough blood to write my own 3 character first name, much less an entire contract. 

It's the visual that I can't feature.  That was either one heck of a pin-prick (in the same way that the "chainsaw scene" in Scarface was one heck of a paper-cut) or the guy was a hemophiliac.  And out of curiosity, what was the waitstaff thinking while one of their patrons was gettin' medieval on his own self right there in the restaurant?  Nowadays you can't even smoke inside a restaurant but when did it become OK to take a blood oath?

And all that's aside from the fact that promisor went to a lot of trouble, not to mention taking the risk of contracting hepatitis C, when in the end the California appeals court ruled the contract is unenforceable.

Wow - the things people do when they eat too much sushi!

The hat tip on this one goes once again to our good buddy Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writing blog - pay him a visit now and again, eh?

I am the scholarship dude.


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This is an interesting case, but isn't it clear that the issue is not that the contract was written in blood, but that the blood itself was not consideration for a contract otherwise lacking in consideration? Put another way, is there any reason to think that an otherwise enforceable contract would be rendered unenforceable because of the parties choice of "ink"?

Posted by: Jeff Goldfarb | Mar 13, 2009 2:18:46 PM

Umm, did you read the opinion, Prof. Levy? The entire point of the case is that this was *not* a contract written in blood. It was an unenforceable gratuitous promise written in blood. One would expect any lawyer to understand this important distinction.

Posted by: anon | Mar 15, 2009 7:43:00 PM

This looks like good law to me. The text of the document clearly contained a gratuitous promise unsupported by mutual consideration.

The medium of the writing evidencing the promise seems completely irrelevant. Written in blood, carved in a table, or in ink on a cocktail napkin, the requirements for contract formation remain the same. One of those elements is mutual consideration, which this writing lacks.

Good case, good result.

Posted by: Thisson | Mar 16, 2009 10:23:47 AM

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