Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Normille v. Miller case brief summary

Normille v. Miller case brief summary

Main Point of this Case:  A counteroffer acts as a rejection of the original offer.  A counteroffer does not contain the terms of the original offer. The counteroffer, like the original offer, must be accepted before it can be revoked.

Case Facts:
On August 4, the Defendant listed a piece of real estate. Normile was shown the property by a real estate broker. When Normile saw the property, her and the real estate broker prepared an offer for the real estate. The offer specified that it must be accepted by 5:00 p.m. on August 5th.  The Defendant received the offer, made several changes, signed and later returned the offer to Normile. When the real estate broker presented the counteroffer to Normile, Normile neither accepted nor rejected the counteroffer and she indicated that they were going to wait to decide what to do. Interestingly enough, the real estate broker was under the impression that Normile was rejecting the counteroffer based on statements that were made by Normile. Normile had indicated that the increased amount of earnest money and decreased duration of the loan were problematic.

On August 5th, the same real estate broker went to the home of Segal at approximately 12:30 a.m. At that time Segal had signed an offer to purchase the same property with terms that were very similar to Defendant’s counteroffer. The Defendant accepted this offer.

At approximately 2:00 p.m., the real estate broker informed Normile that the counteroffer had been revoked.  She stated, “you snooze, you lose; the property has been sold.”

Prior to 5:00 p.m. on August 5, Normile initialed the Defendant’s counteroffer and delivered it with the earnest money deposit.

Normile and Segal filed separate actions, which were consolidated at court. The trial court granted the Segal’s motion for summary judgment.
Issues: Does there exist an enforceable contract to purchase the property between Normile and Defendant?

Was the counteroffer, in this case, a rejection of the original offer?

Did the deadline for acceptance become a part of the counteroffer?

Was the counteroffer in this case actually an option?

Did Plaintiff accept the counteroffer?

Holding: No. There is not an enforceable contract between Normile and Defendant to purchase the property

When a potential purchaser submits an offer to the seller and the seller makes changes to the offer prior to signing, it is generally referred to as “qualified or conditional acceptance.” The type of acceptance is a counteroffer and functions as a rejection of the original offer submitted by the potential purchaser. In the present case, because Defendant changed terms of Normile’s offer, Defendant did not accept Normile’s offer. In fact, Defendant’s counteroffer actually operated as a rejection of Normile’s offer.

In this particular case, the deadline for acceptance provision in Normile’s offer did not become part of Defendant’s counteroffer. The Court reasons that because Defendant at no point unconditionally assented to the terms of Normile’s offer, the terms of Normile’s offer did not become part of the counteroffer.

An option contract is one that grants a potential purchaser an exclusive right to purchase property within a specified period of time for a fixed price. The Court provides two reasons why Defendant’s counteroffer does not grant Normile an option contract. First, an option contract must be supported by valuable consideration. In the present case, no consideration was given. Second, Defendant’s counteroffer did not promise that the offer would remain open for a specific amount of time.

A potential purchaser does not have the power to accept an offer after it has been revoked. Under these facts, Normile neither accepted nor rejected the counteroffer when it was first presented. Normile instead expressed concern regarding some of the terms of the counteroffer and indicated that he was going to wait to decide whether to accept the counteroffer. When Defendant entered into a contract with Segal, Defendant manifested an intention to revoke the counteroffer. Revocation generally must be communicated to the offeree to be effective. In the present case, Normile did receive notice of the revocation through the real estate broker. Because Normile’s power of acceptance had already been terminated by Defendant’s revocation of the counteroffer, Normile’s attempt to accept the counteroffer failed.

Analysis: In this case, the Defendant rejected Normile’s offer by submitting a counteroffer. Because the counteroffer operated as a rejection of Normile’s original offer, the terms of Normile’s original offer were not transferred to the counteroffer. Normile did not have a contract to purchase the property from Defendant because Normile failed to accept the counteroffer before it was revoked.

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