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An Intriguing Story Emphasizes the Importance of Learning about Oral Contracts

Usually we think of kidnappers as facing punishment, not countersuing in order to punish victims.  In Kansas however, a man who held a couple hostage is now countersuing them for breach of contract.

Jesse Dimmick was wanted for kidnapping and killing a Colorado man back in September of 2009.  Dimmick fled all the way to Kansas, where he came into the home of newlyweds Jared and Lindsay Rowley.  Dimmick supposedly entered the Rowley home with a knife, telling them that he was being chased by the police and needed a place to hide.  Due to fear, the Rowleys provided Dimmick with shelter and food.  When Dimmick fell asleep, the couple took advantage of the opportunity and left their home.

Of course, the couple decided to sue Dimmick.  They are seeking $75,000 for trespass and emotional distress.  The peculiar part is that Dimmick is countersuing for breach of contract on the basis that there was an oral contract between the couple and himself.  He specifically states:

I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract.

Dimmick is asking for $235,000 for hospital bills.  Ironically, these injuries are not related to the encounter with the Rowleys.

Now, oral contracts may be valid in some circumstances.  However, in this circumstance it is likely that the court will not find that there was an oral contract.  For any valid contract, there needs to be a “meeting of the minds” between both parties.  In other words, both parties need to display some sort of assent to the contract’s subject matter and terms.  Here, there was no meeting of the minds because Dimmick entered the Rowley home with a knife, naturally instilling fear in the couple.  The fact that the Rowleys provided him with food and shelter is likely to be seen as actions done in fear for their life.  Therefore, Dimmick’s peculiar attempt to prove that there was an oral contract between the Rowleys and himself is likely to fail.  Another significant point is that contracts entered into under duress and/or illegally are not likely to be enforceable in a court of law.  So overall, it will be close to impossible for Dimmick to win his countersuit.  What is sad is that judicial resources are being wasted litigating over this countersuit.

Despite the story being intriguing, it also serves as a lesson for all of us; the lesson being how important it is to educate ourselves on oral contracts.  People can enter into oral contracts at any time, without even knowing it.  Many people out there still think that oral contracts are not enforceable because of the mentality that “a contract needs to be in writing.”  Well, that is not true.  For our own good, it is important to sit down and learn about oral contracts, and when they can be found enforceable.  When doing so, the Dimmick story serves as a great example of the type of oral contract likely to be found unenforceable.

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