Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Profit-making establishments often offer to engage in transactions with no immediate gain, or even at a loss, as a means of inducing customers to engage in other transactions that are more lucrative; such offers may nonetheless be contractual, and they do not lack consideration.
Chris Barfield, an African-American man, entered a Commerce Bank branch in Wichita, Kansas, and requested change for a $ 50 bill. He was refused change on the ground that he was not an account-holder. The next day, Chris Barfield's father, James Barfield, asked a white friend, John Polson, to make the same request from the bank. Mr. Polson was given change, and the teller never asked whether he held an account with the bank. A few minutes later, James Barfield entered the bank, asked for change for a $ 100 bill, and was told that he would not be given change unless he was an account-holder. James Barfield then enlisted the help of a white news reporter and his African-American colleague. The two men, separately, visited the bank to request change. The African-American man was asked whether he was an account holder, and the white man was not. The Barfields filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, alleging racial discrimination in the impairment of the ability to contract. The Bank moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. While that motion was pending, the two sides engaged in extended mediation and negotiation, which ultimately failed. During that period, the Barfields moved for class certification and to amend their complaint to include a claim under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bank argued, and the district court held, that the proposed exchange was not a contract because it involved no consideration. In the most straightforward sense, the transaction proposed by the Barfields was a contract of exchange: a large-denomination bill in exchange for smaller-denomination bills. The bank also argued that the court should treat the transaction as a gratuitous service that it had provided for no consideration. The judge denied both plaintiffs' motions and granted the defendant's motion to dismiss. The Barfields timely appealed.
Was the Barfields’ proposal to exchange money a contract offer?
The court could not regard the provision of bill exchange services as "gratuitous" in any legal sense. If the bank effectively extended bill exchange services to persons of one race and not the other, that was sufficient to come within the ambit of § 1981. Because the Barfields’ proposed amended claim did not provide enough detail to put the bank on notice of their claim, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend.