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Mesaros v. United States - 845 F.2d 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1988)

Rule:

Whether an offer is made depends on the objective reasonableness of the alleged offeree's belief that the advertisement or solicitation is intended as an offer. Generally, it is considered unreasonable for a person to believe that advertisements and solicitations are offers that bind the advertiser. Otherwise, the advertiser could be bound by an excessive number of contracts requiring delivery of goods far in excess of amounts available.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Mary Mesaros and husband Anthony C. Mesaros filed a class action lawsuit for themselves and others similarly situated (including 33 named prospective class members) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against defendants. Defendants included the United States of America, the United States Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of the Mint, James Baker, Secretary of the Treasury, and Donna Pope, Director of the United States Mint. Plaintiffs sought damages for an alleged breach of contract by defendants in failing to deliver a quantity of Statue of Liberty commemorative coins they had ordered from defendants pursuant to an advertisement mailed to the Mesaros and published in newspapers and other news media by the United States Mint. In the alternative they sought mandamus relief for the delivery of the coins. The Mesaros also filed a motion for certification of the class.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Mesaros' suit, or in the alternative for summary judgment. The district court granted judgment for defendants on their motion in its entirety. No action was taken by the district court on the class action motion because it was moot after the other action by the court. The Mesaros filed an appeal. 

Issue:

In a breach of contract action by disappointed customers, did the advertisements and solicitations from the federal government for the purchase of commemorative coins constitute an offer binding the advertisers?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

Affirming, the United States Court of Appeals held that the trial court's ruling was proper. The Court noted that it was generally unreasonable for a person to consider advertisements and solicitations as offers that bound the advertiser. More specifically, the federal government's advertising materials could only be reasonably construed as invitations to bargain rather than firm offers enforceable against the federal government. Accordingly, the Mint materials were intended solely as solicitations of offers from customers that were subject to acceptance by the Mint before the Mint would be bound by a contract. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act of 1985 did not require that orders be filled in any particular order. The Courts had no constitutional authority to decree that more coins be produced.

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