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A Case Brief: Lucy v Zehmer

A, H Zehmer presented a written contract of $50000 to W, O Lucy on December 1952. The
contract was written in one December evening on a hotel bill whereby Zehmer decided to sell his
land of 471.6 acres to Lucy for $50000. Prior to the contract, Zehmer claimed that he was joking
about selling his land, although Lucy was serious about buying the farm that was referred to as
the “Fergusson farm”. In his statement, Zehmer claimed that he “was high as Georgia pine,” and,
therefore, no deal between him and Lucy.
Lucy argued that he was in sound mind and held that Zehmer was also in sound mind when they
started drinking together. He also argued that Zehmer was only trying to force him accept that
there was no contract of $50000 between them for the Fergusson farm. Specifically, Lucy
purchased the Fergusson farm and completed the agreed payment of $50000 in cash, but Zehmer
rejected to comply with the contract and did not complete the deal.
The trial court held that although Zehmer had accepted to sell the Fergusson farm to Lucy, Lucy
had not created a right to a particular performance.
Was there a valid contract between Zehmer and Lucy?
A sound mind between the involved parties is not essential to the creation of a contract. The
actions and words of the involved parties are deduced in line with the sound standard. For
instance, if the words and actions of one of the involved party have even a single meaning, the
hidden intention of that party become immaterial but exclude unsound meaning that is attached
to the party’s expressions which is known to the other party.
The facts indicated that Lucy was justified in believing that the performance exemplified a
serious deal that was in good faith.
The court considers the defendants (Zehmer) intention when presenting the agreement. The
concentration of the court is whether the plaintiff (Lucy) had a realistic belief to have a valid
contract. Therefore, it is a test to see whether Zehmer actions and words could be rationally be
deduced by Lucy as a bargain to sell his land to him. Both Lucy and Zehmer had a discussion for
more than forty minutes, settled the matter of examining the title of the Fergusson farm and
Zehmer and his wife signed the written contract.
The Supreme Court of Virginia held that Lucy was entitled to create a particular performance of
the contract between him and Zehmer. Therefore, the contract was transposed and remanded for
an establishment of specific performance.

The actions and the words of Zehmer made Lucy believe that Zehmer was seriously selling his
land. The Supreme Court of Virginia moved away from the essential sound personal standards
for there to be a valid contract between Zehmer and Lucy.

Richard A. Mann, Barry S. Roberts; Smith & Roberson’s Business Law. (15th edition

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