Law School Case Brief
Vaskie v. W. Am. Ins. Co. - 383 Pa. Super. 76, 556 A.2d 436 (1989)
Where an offer does not specify an expiration date or otherwise limit the allowable time for acceptance, it is both hornbook law and well established in Pennsylvania that the offer is deemed to be outstanding for a reasonable period of time. What is a reasonable time is ordinarily a question of fact to be decided by the jury and is dependent upon the numerous circumstances surrounding the transaction. Such circumstances as the nature of the contract, the relationship or situation of the parties, and their course of dealing, and usages of the particular business are all relevant. However, there are situations where the question of what is a reasonable time for acceptance may be decided by the court as a matter of law.
Appellee offeree was involved in a car accident with a vehicle owned and operated by persons who were insured by appellant insurer. On December 1, 1986, the insurer sent a letter to appellee's counsel that offered to settle the personal injury claim. On January 9, 1987, appellee's counsel sent a mailgram to the insurer accepting the offer, but the insurer refused to pay. After the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee In appellee's breach of contract claim, appellant insurer sought appellate review of the the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County (Pennsylvania). Appellee cross-appealed on the ground that the trial court erred in failing to award her pre-judgment interest and costs.
Did the parties enter into an enforceable contract for the payment?
The appellate court reversed, holding the trial court erred in deciding as a matter of law that appellee's January 9th acceptance was tendered within a reasonable time. The court held that, under the circumstances of the case, the question of reasonableness was a disputed material issue of fact that should not have been resolved as a matter of law on summary judgment. The court held the fact that the statute of limitations may have run on appellee's claim by the time of her acceptance was relevant to a determination of the reasonableness of her conduct in waiting until January 9th to accept.
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