Monday, March 18, 2013

Ragosta v. Wilder case brief

Ragosta v. Wilder case brief
156 Vt. 390; 592 A.2d 367

SYNOPSIS: Defendant seller appealed from a judgment of the Orange (Vermont) Superior Court, which found that a binding contract existed between the seller and plaintiff buyers to sell a certain piece of real property and ordered the seller to convey the real property to the buyers.

The seller had made an offer to the buyers in which he stated that he would sell the property to the buyers for $ 80,000 on a certain date if the sellers paid him on that date and if the property had not been sold to anyone else.

The court held that the seller's promise to keep the offer to sell open was not enforceable because it was not supported by consideration.

-His offer could be accepted only by the buyers' performance prior to the deadline.
-Thus, absent the operation of equitable estoppel, the seller was free to revoke the offer to sell at any time up to the deadline.
-While the buyers had incurred expenses in obtaining financing, equitable estoppel was inapplicable because there were no facts known to the seller, but unknown to the buyers.
-The buyers could not have acted on an understanding that the seller would definitely convey the property to them.
-The court noted that, in the course of analyzing the case under part performance and equitable estoppel theories, the trial court cited promissory estoppel principles. It remanded the case for a determination of whether the buyers were entitled to a remedy on those grounds.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the trial court's judgment for the buyers on the ground that there was no binding contract and the doctrine of equitable estoppel was inapplicable. It remanded the case for a determination of whether the buyers were entitled to a remedy under promissory estoppel principles.

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