California law definitively states that an acceptance must be absolute and unqualified, or must include in itself an acceptance of that character which the proposer can separate from the rest, which will conclude the person accepting. A qualified acceptance is a new proposal. Cal. Civ. Code § 1585. If the acceptance contains conditions not embraced in the offer or adds new terms, there is no meeting of the minds and no acceptance.
Appellant airline's airplane crashed resulting in passenger deaths and numerous lawsuits that were consolidated. In a bifurcated trial a jury returned a verdict against appellant on the issue of liability. Settlement negotiations followed contingent on acceptance by appellees, the survivors and estate of deceased passengers, of numerous conditions. Appellees believed an agreement was reached and the district court granted appellees' motion to enforce the settlement agreement, denied appellant's motion to vacate, and appellant sought review. The court reversed.
Was there acceptance by apellee of the agreement thus resulting in a valid contract of settlement?
After receiving appellant's offer, appellee responded by the offer deadline with a qualified acceptance which became a new proposal. Because the acceptance contained conditions not embraced in the offer or added new terms, there was no meeting of the minds and no acceptance.Because the court found no valid contract of settlement, it did not need to reach the other issues raised by on appeal.