Lucy V. Zehmer 196 Va. 493, 84 S.E.2d 516, Web 1954 Va. Lexis 224 (Supreme Court of Virginia)

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Lucy v. Zehmer 196 Va. 493, 84 S.E.2d 516, Web 1954 Va. Lexis 224 (Supreme Court of Virginia)

A.H. Zehmer and Ida Zehmer, husband and wife and defendants, were drinking with W.O. Lucy and J.C. Lucy, husband and wife and plaintiffs, when A. Zehmer wrote and signed a contract to sell his 471 acre farm for $50,000 to the plaintiffs. He compelled his wife to sign the contract by telling her it was a joke intended to get the plaintiff to admit to a lack of funds. The plaintiffs believed it was a valid contract and attempted to finalize the transaction at which time the defendants denied the validity of the contract stating that Mr. Zehmer was drunk at the time the contract was created and that it was created as a joke. The plaintiffs brought suit for specific performance when the defendants refused to complete the transaction.


Is the contract enforceable?


When determining the validity of an offer the words and actions of the offeror are interpreted in accordance with a reasonable persons standards. “The law judges of an agreement between two persons exclusively from those expressions with their intentions which are communicated between them.” (Lucy v. Zehmer)


“A person cannot set up that he was merely jesting when his conduct and words would warrant a reasonable person in believing that he intended an agreement” (Lucy v. Zehmer) Regardless of the defendants defense that he entered into the contract in question while intoxicated and jokingly the plaintiffs believed his words and actions to be true. Based on the actions and statements of the defendant at the time of the contract and the contract itself a reasonable person would believe it to be a valid business transaction.


The trial court initially ruled in favor of the defendants but later upon appeal that was overruled by the Supreme…...

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