To prove the existence of a contract, a plaintiff must plead: (1) offer; (2) acceptance; (3) consideration; and (4) sufficient specification of the essential terms. An oral contract is subject to all basic requirements of contract law, and mutual assent is a prerequisite for the formation of any contract.
A law student saw on national tv an edited version of the highly publicized interview of a lawyer regarding his client who was accused of murdering several individuals. The edited interview made it look like the lawyer seriously extended a "million-dollar challenge" to disprove their defense that it was physically impossible for the accused to be at the scene of the crime within 28 minutes using the route the accused took. The law student perceived this as an offer to form a unilateral contract, which he accepted by performing the challenge. The law student retraced the alleged route of the accused and he accomplished it within 28 minutes. The law student sent a recording of his journey to the lawyer and then demanded payment. When the lawyer refused, the law student filed an action for breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the lawyer.
Did the challenge give rise to an enforceable unilateral contract?
In this breach of contract action, neither the content of the lawyer's statements, nor the circumstances in which he made them, nor the conduct of the parties reflected the assent necessary to establish an actionable offer. The "spoken words" of the lawyer's purported challenge did not indicate a willingness to enter into a contract where the exaggerated amount of "a million dollars" indicated that this was hyperbole. None of the lawyer's surrounding commentary—either in the unedited original interview or in the edited television broadcast—gave the slightest indication that his statement was anything other than a figure of speech.