Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sinnar v. Le Roy case brief

Sinnar v. Le Roy case brief summary
270 P.2d 800 (1954)

Appellant customer challenged a decision of the Superior Court for King County (Washington), which entered judgment in favor of respondent grocery store owner in the grocery store owner's breach of contract action. The grocery store owner had filed the action to recover $ 450 that he had delivered to the customer upon the latter's promise either to get a beer license for the grocery store owner or return the money.

On appeal, the customer argued that the transaction between the parties was illegal and, thus, unenforceable. The grocery store owner argued that the customer was foreclosed from raising the question because the customer did not plead the defense of illegality. The court reversed the trial court's judgment with instructions to dismiss the action.


  • The court held that the only place that a license to sell beer could have been secured was from the Washington state liquor control board. 
  • Although a license could be assigned to another person, an assignment could not be made if it resulted in both a change of licensee and change of location. 
  • The court found that the illegality that was claimed was of a serious nature. 
  • The situation involved a beer license, which could be secured only from an agency of the state. 
  • It purported to deal with a matter that was exclusively within the realm of public policy. 
  • The customer could not waive his right to set up the defense of illegality. 
  • The court found that because the evidence established the illegality of the transaction, the trial court should have considered the evidence, although illegality had not been pleaded as a defense.

The court reversed the trial court's judgment that was entered in favor of the grocery store owner with instructions to dismiss his breach of contract action against the customer.

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