Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2-204 Still Requires Contract Basics

It is the time of the year when I am working on the ABA's Sales Survey of Article 2 cases from 2010. So, I'll pass along a few nice ones here. Perhaps some of these will make good examination questions or just good basics. And the lesson of today's 2010 case, yes, an Article 2 contract still requires a basic agreement at least some definite terms.

While much litigation and scholarly attention surrounding contract formation under Article 2 centers on section 2 207, the decision in Teter v. Glass Onion, Inc., 723 F.Supp.2d 1138 (W.D. Mo. 2010) turned on the application of section 2 204. Gary Teter (“Teter”), an artist who paints historic scenes, met with the owners of the Glass Onion, Inc. (“Glass Onion”), the purchaser of a gallery with which Teter had done business in the past to discuss the continuation of the business relationship with the gallery under Glass Onion’s ownership. Thereafter, the parties had several sales transactions for original paintings by Teter where Glass Onion purchased the paintings and posted an image on its website. After some period of time, however, Teter’s agent advised that to continue the relationship, Glass Onion would need to execute a Dealership Agreement.
When Glass Onion did not become an authorized dealer, Teter’s agent requested that Glass Onion remove images from its web site and advertising. When Glass Onion did not remove the images, Teter brought suit against Glass Onion on various claims related to Glass Onion’s use of Teter’s works in its advertising. Glass Onion brought counterclaims on the grounds that Teter breached a contract to sell art to Glass Onion and provide it a geographic exclusivity. The court granted Teter’s motion for summary judgment on Glass Onion’s counterclaims. The court noted that while section 2-204 permits the making of a contract based on conduct of the parties, the basic elements of an agreement must still be present. While the eight purchases of artwork constituted contracts, the alleged ongoing agreement to sell artwork to Glass Onion for resale on the same terms as the predecessor owner of the gallery was too indefinite and lacked consideration to constitute a contract under section 2-204. Accordingly, Teter was under no firm obligation with Glass Onion or the previous gallery owner to continue selling artwork and could stop selling or refuse to sell paintings to the gallery without recourse.
For similar lines of reasoning, see Key Items, Inc. v. Ultima Diamonds, Inc., No. 09 Civ. 3729(HBP), 2010 WL 3291582 (S.D.N.Y. August 17, 2010) (companies related to buyer were not responsible on unpaid contract to which they were not a party); Harman Invs., Ltd. v. Shah Safari, Inc., No. C10-0216RSL, 2010 WL 3522517 (W.D. Wash. September 07, 2010)(financier was not party to contract for purchase of goods and not liable for non-payment thereon).


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