David Horton – Law School for Everyone: Contracts
If a product or service exists, someone might want to buy it or sell it. And if they do, the vehicle they’ll use is a contract. This makes contract law a fascinating field that is as broad as everything humans do.
Every day, people around the world enter into multiple contracts—often with a single click of a button. By doing so, they change their personal legal landscape. They subject themselves and others to binding obligations. Sometimes they also surrender their rights, such as the power to recover for damaged property or even the ability to go to court in the first place.
In Law School for Everyone: Contracts, join Professor David Horton of the University of California, Davis, School of Law for a revealing investigation of contract law. Over 12 lectures, you’ll get an accessible introduction from contract essentials, including offers, acceptances, counteroffers, options, and defenses, to contract enforcement, such as fraud, duress, and unconscionability. These and other concepts come alive in court cases that range from the outrageous to the heart-rending to the ridiculous. By the end, you’ll discover why contract law is endlessly challenging, continually changing, and very much a part of your everyday life.
Contracts are agreements between two or more peoples or entities; they supposedly arise from the mutual assent of the parties. Nevertheless, in today’s digital world, we routinely “agree” to contracts we haven’t read—and possibly couldn’t understand. It happens every time you open a bank account, rent a car, join a gym, start a new job, or sign up for internet service.
Several tough questions lie at the heart of a typical law school course in contract law:
- What does it mean to “agree” to a contract?
- Should courts blindly enforce fine print that nobody ever reads?
- Where’s the line between salesmanship and outright fraud?
- Should written contracts carry more weight than verbal ones?
- How wide a net should the law cast when it defines a party’s rights?
The answers are vital not only for lawyers-in-training, but also for any consumer who wants a better understanding of how contracts enable us to plan, trade, and cooperate with one another.
Legal Building Blocks of Contracts
The nature of the internet today—which can, oftentimes, feel like an endless parade of companies trying to enter into electronic contracts with you—means that you might enter into a binding agreement without you ever knowing it.
Professor Horton helps you to better understand (and navigate) the contracts of everyday life by breaking down contract law into its fundamental components. Law School for Everyone: Contracts demystifies concepts and terms that can often seem intimidating to individuals outside of legal fields, such as:
- Offers: According to Professor Horton, for a communication to be an offer, it must set forth the material terms of the deal, and the person making the offer (the offeror) must describe the proposed contract with enough specificity that the person receiving the offer (the offeree) can consummate the transaction by simply saying “yes” or “I accept.”
- Acceptances: Under what’s known as the “mailbox rule,” acceptance of an offer is operational the very moment it leaves the offeree’s possession. This doctrine gets its name from cases where the offeror makes an offer, the offeree writes a letter accepting the offer, the offeree places the letter in the mail—and then returns home only to find a letter from the offeror revoking the offer.
- Consideration: Lawyers use the word “consideration” as a shorthand for the benefit each party obtains from a contract. The consideration doctrine requires a contract to be supported by consideration in the sense that both parties agree to an exchange. This doctrine has deep and tangled roots that stretch all the way back to Justinian Rome.
- Fraud: In contract law, fraud comes in two flavors. The first is misrepresentation, under which a party can annul a deal if assent is induced by either a fraudulent or material false statement of fact which the party is justified in relying on. The second is fraud in the execution, which applies when one party misleads another about the contents of a contract, and the victim justifiably relies on the wrongdoer’s statement.
- Promises: A basic building block of contracts, promises are a party’s core obligation under the contract. Promises are connected to each other through constructive conditions. For example, when a party makes a promise, it is as if it says to the other party: “I promise to perform, but only on the implied condition that you also perform. If you don’t perform, then I won’t perform.”
An Education in Contract Law Unlike Any Other
To help you better understand just how far-reaching a field contract law is, Professor Horton packs these lectures with eye-opening court cases that illustrate the topics and concepts covered in each lecture.
Among the many cases you’ll examine in Law School for Everyone: Contracts are those involving:
- A contract for the sale of a farm written on a piece of scratch paper,
- A young man who claimed a soda company owed him a fighter jet, and
- Two companies that couldn’t agree on the meaning of the word “chicken.”
Awarded the UC Davis School of Law’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Horton shatters the stereotype of contract law as dry and complex and transforms it into a profoundly accessible learning experience. The result is a course in contract law—and an education in the American legal system—that’s unlike anything you’ll find outside a top-tier law school.