Friday, August 29, 2008
The ABA Journal online reports that a Maryland appellate court recently cited a 1996 episode of the Seinfeld television comedy in a case involving a partnership dispute between novelist Tom Clancy and his ex-wife. The decision, issued on August 26, 2008, explains why "spite" is no basis for Clancy's exercise of a contractual right to withdraw from the venture. Footnote 27 describes Jerry Seinfeld as an "unlikely legal illustrator . . . of the duty of good faith in contract," quoting at length from the scene in which Jerry tries to return a jacket he purchased because he doesn't like the salesman who sold it to him. The court analyzes Seinfeld's motives:
In attempting to exercise his contractual discretion out of "spite," Jerry breached his duty to act in good faith towards the other party to the contract. Jerry would have been authorized to return the jacket if, in his good faith opinion, it did not fit or was not an attractive jacket. He may not return the jacket, however, for the sole purpose of denying to the other party the value of the contract. Jerry's post hoc rationalization that he was returning the jacket because he did not "want it" was rejected properly by [the store manager] as not credible.