Contracts – “Short Essay” Question and Answer “Rights of John & Pete”

1. John decides to sell his truck to Pete for $1,000. Pete agrees to buy it at that price and to pay John the money “when he is able.” Discuss. (SEE SAMPLE ANSWER, infra.)




In order to prove a valid contract, John and Pete must establish the following elements: First, to determine the applicable law and then whether there is an (1) offer, (2) acceptance, (3) consideration, and (4) the absence of any defenses.


Applicable Law

The UCC governs all contracts based on the sale of goods.

Given the fact John’s truck is a good, the applicable law governing the transaction between John and Pete is the UCC.

There are no facts qualifying either John or Pete as a merchant routinely engaged in the commercial purchase and sale of goods so that the UCC rules applicable to merchants will not apply.


In order to establish a valid offer there must be the manifestation of present contractual intent, definite and certain terms, and communication of the offer to the offeree.

To prove the requisite intent, the following factors may be considered: Whether there are facts of preliminary negotiation or invitation to contract – or whether there are facts demonstrating a precatory expression and showing a desire, request or wish to make an offer.

When John “decided to sell his truck” to Pete, it is unlikely the requisite intent was established because this only established the desire to do so as a precatory expression. Further, John’s decision could be construed as a preliminary invitation or negotiating tactic – assuming it was communicated to Pete.

Although at CL, time for performance and price were necessary terms, the UCC only requires “quantity” – which is implicit in John’s potential offer given the fact only “John’s truck” is contemplated. Further, it can be assumed John’s “offer” was communicated in view of Pete’s agreement to buy it for the $1,000 price.

Overall, John’s potential offer is suspect given the difficulty of satisfying the necessary intent element as discussed, above.




The unequivocal assent to the terms of a valid offer constitutes acceptance. Although at CL the addition of any term by the offeree caused a counteroffer and rejection of the offer, UCC 2-207 establishes the additional term must materially alter the offeror’s terms.

When Pete as the offeree agreed to buy John’s truck for the price of $1,000 but added the term to “pay John when he is able,” an argument may be made that this materially altered John’s potential offer because it created a condition for Pete to perform that may objectively be incapable to determine.


Assuming a valid offer and acceptance, at issue is whether John and Pete each incurred sufficient benefit and detriment regarding, respectively, the truck and $1,000 in order to constitute valuable bargained-for consideration.

Again, given Pete’s agreement to “pay when able,” an argument may be made that his potential acceptance is at best illusory – unless the “when able” term is objectively capable of being determined to be definite and certain so that Pete’s performance will be assured by a specific date.


Statute of Frauds

All contracts for the sale of goods for more than $500 must be in writing.

Presuming an otherwise valid contract based on a valid offer, acceptance, and consideration – and regardless of the issues discussed above – at issue is whether the Statute of Frauds would apply given the fact there is no evidence of a writing between John and Pete and in view of the fact the cost of the truck exceeds the $500 requirement. This would constitute a valid defense to the formation of the John/Pete contract in the event the writing element necessary to satisfy the statute of frauds cannot be satisfied.



Q: What “organizational” format was used in this answer – “formal” or “informal”?
A: “Formal”
Why?: Because the “elements” (i.e., “issues”) for “Formation” were headnoted. The “informal” organizational approach would have “compressed” discussion of the elements into a series of paragraphs – mostly using the “minor” paragraphing/analysis technique.







ICO Chart “Contracts” and Video Tutorial of Black Letter Law

Below is the Cal Bar ICO Chart dealing with Issue Clustering and “Contracts”. Seems easy enough right? Well sure, if you also understand crossovers, have the entire chart, and black letter law, writing techniques, and practice practice practice. During this time period of study, Paul helped me develop a schedule of daily goals so I could nail this chart and the many others. Contract law, fortunately, is one of my stronger subjects. But just look at what a winning candidate must know, and then you will understand why it was so important to me to have a coach push me through the material and testing.

Video of “Breach of Contract” Black Letter Law With Examples by Attorney Michael Ehline

I did a pretty decent video on the basics of contract law with some decent examples of a breach that I did a while back.

Although this Video Jug series on contract law is by no means comprehensive, it is definitely pretty decent.




*A. Formation

*B. Performance

C. Other Parties


(Consider cross-overs: Torts, Remedies, Property, Agency &

Writing Techniques: Major/Minor, FC, Prefatory, Continuity

*A. Formation: Consider UCC applicability (MBE)

 *1. Offer (MBE)

*a. Manifestation of present contractual intent (Objective theory of reasonableness)(MBE)

*1. Words used (mere invitation to contract vs. preliminary negotiation)

2. Surrounding circumstances (Extravagant proposals made obviously in jest, excitement, anger)

3. To whom proposal made (groups vs. individual)

*4. Definiteness and certainty of terms

5. Whether written contract contemplated

 *b. Requirement of definiteness and certainty of terms (JDXN)(MBE)

1. Common law (party, subject matter, time and price required) (FC)(MBE)

*2. Modern view and U.C.C.: General rule, policy of law favors upholding commercial expectation of parties. Therefore, will imply objective terms where capable of doing so. (MBE)

a. Such as:

1. Requirement and output contracts, offers to pay “when able”, alternative performances offered equal objective terms. Agreements to “agree” on future term not objectively capable of being determined.

*2. U.C.C. requires quantity term or no offer (MBE)

*c. Communicated (knowledge of offer on part of offeree)

2. NOTE: Type of offer

a. Option contract

*b. Where offeree has detrimentally relied (MBE)

c. Option with reserve

*d. U.C.C. Firm “Offer” by merchant (MBE)

*e. Unilateral contract after part performance

f. Plain offer

3. Offer terminated

a. Express Terms (FCC)

b. Operation of Law

1. Lapse of time

2. Death or destruction of subject matter (MBE)

3. Death or insanity of offerer or offeree

4. Supervening illegality of proposed contract

c. Acts of Parties

*1. Revocation of offerer (MBE)

*2. Rejection by offeree

*4. Acceptance

a. Capacity to accept

*b. Acceptance must be communicated

*c. Bi-lateral vs. unilateral contract

d. Notice of acceptance required

1. Methodology

*e. Acceptance must be unequivocal (Common Law
Restatement, U.C.C.) (JDXN)(MBE)(FC)

5. Consideration

*a. Benefit vs. detriment (FC)(MBE)

b. Adequacy of consideration (overreaching)

*c. Pre-existing duty (MBE)

*1. Extension agreement

*2. Promises to accept a smaller sum as discharge of debt

*3. Commercial necessity

4. Pre-existing duty owed to third party (MBE)

*5. NOTE: Pre-existing duty vs. accord and satisfaction and novation (MBE)

d. Promises enforceable without consideration

1. Promissory estoppel (Common law, Restatement, U.C.C.) (JDXN)

e. Formalisms as substitute for consideration

1. Promises under seal

*2. Promises in writing

*3. Promises to pay a barred legal obligation (MBE)

4. Promises to perform avoidable

*5. Pre-existing duty (MBE)

*6. Promises to pay for benefits previously conferred (MBE)

f. Illusory Promises

g. No requirement all consideration is valid

*6. Defenses to formation of contract

a. Lack of contractual capacity

1. Minority

2. Mental incapacity

3. Intoxication

b. Illegal contracts

*c. Contracts induced by fraud, mistake, and duress (cf. Remedies: *Recission/*reformation/*Q.K. Also, cf. Torts: Misrepresentation) (MBE)

*d. U.C.C. Unconscionability (JDXN)

*e. Statute of Frauds (MBE)

1. Guaranteed contracts

*2. Contracts for sale of land (MBE)

*3. Contracts for sale of goods (MBE)

4. Contracts in consideration of marriage

*5. Contracts which are incapable of being performed within one year (MBE)

*6. Agency contract (MBE)

*7. Past Performance

8. Effect: MAJ: voidable; MIN: void.

f. Ambiguity (Ref./P.E.)

g. Novation/Cancellation/Release/Lapse/SOL/Sub-K

*B. Performance (MBE)

1A. Conditions/Promises

*1. Breach (FC)(JDXN)(MBE)

*a. Anticipatory breach: Major breach/discharge of duties (MBE)

*b. Voluntary disablement: Minor breach/suspension of duties (MBE)

2. Prevention

3. Divisibility

4. Waiver (MBE)

*5. Substantial Performance (*Constructive conditions precedent at *quasi contract)(MBE)

*6. Impossibility (FC)(MBE) (Know in detail all forms)

7. Impracticability

8. Frustration of Purpose

9. Estoppel

10. Remedies (see Remedies ICO chart)

a. Specific performance (MBE)

b. Recission (MBE)/Quasi Contract

c. Reformation (MBE)

11. Warranties
a. Express
b. Implied

C. Other Parties

1. Third Party Beneficiaries (MBE)

*a. Creation (MBE)

*b. Vesting (MBE)

*c. Termination (MBE)

d. Entrustment

e. Voidable Title

2. Assignment and delegation (FC)(MBE)

*a. In general (FC)

*b. What constitutes effective assignment (MBE)

*c. Revocation of assignments and competing claims of successive assignees (MBE)

d. U.C.C. Rules on successive assignments of contract claim (MBE)

e. Defenses available to obligor

f. Delegation of contract duties

Cal Bar Tutorial “Tort Law Writing Samples” Salesman v. Gordon

Paul Pfau

Paul Pfau from Cal Bar Tutorial Review was kind enough to help even the first year student understand the concept of issue clustering, and recognition. Below are some writing style examples that can definitely help a candidate for the bar get through the written portion of the Exam, and keep their minds sharp for the Multistate portion. On our Google HOA’s, we will go into more of these and even model bar exams and model answers to see how close this style comes to the winning answer.

WRITING STYLE EXAMPLE for Torts (eg., Negligence law, personal injury.)

Below, is an example of an answer applying both the ICO issue-recognition and Writing Style approaches. Remember that “content” is always more important than “form” and that a more efficient format for your answer will ultimately give you the time to improve your content with more issues both seen and appropriately discussed.

I. Salesman (S) v. Gordon (G)

A. Negligence

(Prefatory Paragraph Technique – Only use when you have the time at the beginning of your answer and for a subject based on the proof of elements.)

In order to prove negligence, S must establish the following elements: (1) that he is a foreseeable plaintiff, (2) owed a duty or special duty, that (3) G breached, which was (4) both the actual and proximate cause of his (5) damages, with (6) no available defenses. Each of these is discussed, below.

1. Foreseeable Plaintiff

When the “door-to-door” S slipped on the banana peel on G’s “front porch” he was a foreseeable plaintiff under either the Cardozo or Andrews view because he was clearly within the zone of danger. At issue is the standard of care owed to him.


Special Duty Owed by Landowners

(FC Approach: A writing style used to extrapolate on your wider knowledge of an area of law.) Although the general duty of due care is owed to all persons, here the special duty owed by landowners is presented. Traditionally, the status of the plaintiff as a trespasser, invitee, or licensee governs the standard of care to discover known or reasonably discoverable unsafe property conditions. Modernly, only the reasonable foreseeability of discovering a dangerous condition is important.
When S stepped onto G’s “front porch” he could be considered a trespasser because as a “door-to-door” salesman there are no facts to suggest that he had either the express or implied consent to physically invade G’s property. As such, it is likely that G would have no duty to warn s of its presence even though the banana peel could otherwise be considered an unreasonably dangerous artificial condition posing an unsafe hazard.
Although there are no facts to suggest that S was invited onto G’s premises as an invitee, a closer case could be made that he was a licensee given the fact that S entered G’s land for his own business purpose. Here, too, however, there are no facts that he was given permission by G to do so. As a result, under either interpretation, G owed no duty to warn S of the banana peel as a dangerous condition nor to conduct a reasonable inspection of the porch that might have resulted in its discovery.
Modernly, a case could be made that it was reasonably foreseeable for G to discover the banana peel as a dangerous condition so that he should have warned S before he stepped onto the porch. While the facts may ultimately be insufficient to make an informed analysis, arguing against S’s interest is the fact the peel was only “recently” left on the porch suggesting that G may not have been able to reasonably foresee the unsafe condition in a timely manner.

Duty to Control

Although there is no duty to generally prevent a third party from injuring another, in some cases an affirmative duty may be imposed where the defendant had the actual ability and authority to do so, such as the special relationship existing between parents and minor children.
When G’s son “left the banana peel on G’s front porch” G may have been under a special duty to control his son’s action if he had the ability to discover the “recently left” peel as well as the authority to prevent his son’s action. Given the fact it is probably unknown whether G’s son is a minor, however, the ultimate outcome of the analysis of this issue is unclear.

Alternatively, G may be vicariously liable for the action of his son in creating the unsafe property condition given his special parental relationship. This is unlikely, however, if G’s son is a more responsible adult and not a minor.


As discussed above, the reasonable person standard would apply in assessing whether G breached any of the special duties examined, above. As noted, the strongest argument for S is that G had a duty to control his son’s action in the event he was a minor. Under either the traditional or modern view relating to a landowner’s duty, it is probably unlikely as discussed above that G would be viewed to have acted unreasonably in failing to discover and remove the potentially unsafe condition created by the banana peel.



But for the S slipping and falling as a result of stepping on the banana peel, he would not have broken his nose.


In an indirect cause case, an affirmative intervening force such as an act by a third party combines with a defendant’s negligent act causing the plaintiff’s injury. As a dependent intervening act it is foreseeable and will not supercede the defendant’s liability. If it is an independent intervening act it would be unforeseeable and work to cut off the defendant’s negligence.

When G’s son “left the banana peel” this could be construed as a foreseeable intervening act which would not supercede G’s liability in the event the son is viewed as a minor so that his conduct in creating the unsafe condition could be interpreted as more predictable. In contrast, if the son is older and perhaps more responsible, his act might be considered sufficiently unforeseeable as to supercede or cut off G’s liability.

Further, when S was injured due to his “rather long nose” G is obligated to take his plaintiff as he finds him according to the Thin Skull Plaintiff doctrine so that his injury would remain the proximate cause of G’s negligence.


G would at least be liable for compensatory damages for all of the medical expenses associated with the repair of the S’s nose.
6. Defenses
Assumption of Risk
When the S “slipped and fell” on the banana peel he may have assumed the risk of injury if it is determined he both knew of the risk and voluntarily proceeded to step onto the front porch anyway. Although his knowledge could be implied where the risk of similar injury is one that an average person – let alone a “door-to-door” S – could appreciate, the facts may ultimately be insufficient to make a clear judgment regarding this defense.

Contributory Negligence

Further, S may be viewed as having failed to exercise due care as a “door-to-door” S given his implied experience in safely approaching other’s property. Again, the facts may be insufficient to reach a conclusion as to the likelihood of this defense as a complete bar to recovery.

Comparative Negligence

Alternatively, in some jurisdictions G could argue that S’s conduct in potentially failing to exercise due care should be weighed against his negligence in failing to discover and remove the banana peel as an unsafe condition. Not a complete bar to recovery, this seems a more reasonable outcome given the analysis noted above as to the possible familiarity S might have with unsafe conditions on front porches and G’s own negligence.
Salesman (S) v. Gordon’s Son (GS)


Given the fact S was a foreseeable plaintiff as discussed in his case against G, at issue is whether GS owed a duty to exercise due care and breached that duty when he left the banana peel on the front porch. Although the facts are unclear as to his adult status, GS would more likely be found to have failed to exercise due care if he was not a child and thus more responsible. In contrast, he would only be held to the standard of a child of like age, education, intelligence and experience in assessing whether he breached any duty owed to S. Even so, the facts are sufficiently unclear as to make the resolution of these issues this difficult.

Presuming GS was under the general duty to exercise care and that he had breached his duty, it is clear that he would be both the actual and proximate cause of S’s injury. At the very least, S would contend that the combination of G’s negligence as discussed above acted in concurrence with GS’s negligence to cause his injury.

GS would also be liable for compensatory damages for S’s medical recovery. GS’s damages would not be reduced due to the Collateral Source Rule even if S also recovered damages from G as another source.

GS would claim the same defenses as discussed, above, with G. The same analysis would apply as well (Supra; I.A.6.a-c).

Following the issue-recognition and writing style process, be sure to then meticulously review your work product. First, compare the model answer (of any LAE) for issues. Then, for Writing Style, making sure to concretely evaluate each of the elements of style that are a part of the writing style process. Next, give yourself three (3) grades: Issues, style, overall. Your overall grade is weighted more heavily for issues – and is not strictly an average of issues and style. Be sure to make constructive comments on your answer – noting both issues you may have missed as well as elements of style you may have also missed or need to improve. This will assist in helping you to develop your perspective as to the sufficiency of your writing standard as well as give me insight regarding your perspective.

Remember: Every “practice exercise” – whether for the MBE, essay, or PT – is a two-step process: First, do the exercise employing the use of your technique/method to improve your skill; second, meticulously review the quality of your work product/answer in developing your judgment as to the precise standard you achieved. Then, “build” your knowledge into your substantive outline, crystallize the specific areas of improvement needed, and work to upgrade your next “generation” of work with those improvements. In other words, work to progressively develop both your skills and standards. It can also be very constructive to engage in a “re-write exercise” of the same problem following your initial evaluation of it. Constantly work to “build the mould” and reinforce your skills and standards from one exercise to another. Have faith – you can do it!



















Is This the Best Route for My Education?

Attorney Michael Ehline
Attorney Michael Ehline

The field of law can be a difficult one to master. It can seem that only those that go through law school will ultimately be able to argue a case in front of an judge one day. However, due to the foresight of California law, the Law Office Study Program may allow you the opportunity to prove yourself and further your career.

You can enter into the program even if you are not a college graduate. However, you may have some college experience but one that is not specific to law. Some applicants attended law school but due to difficult circumstances or timing had to leave. Regardless of the reason, if you are a determined, tenacious individual with a passion for helping others you too can set yourself up to take the state bar.

Of course, getting yourself there is not easy. You can read more about the process of becoming an attorney through this process here. Ultimately, there are several questions that you must answer before you embark on such a path. You must be willing to take at least four years of your life ready to study. You must find a sponsor for the program. You must prepare for the First-Year Law Students’ Examination or baby bar exam. You must study for the California bar exam, which statistics show is one of the most difficult in the country. There is a high chance that you will not even pass it the first try!

The question comes down to yourself. Are you a committed individual that would like to work with a lawyer or judge that is willing to show you the ropes and prepare you for a field where you can fight those that are criminals or negligent and defend those that cannot defend themselves? Do you want to avoid expensive law school that could run you into six-figure debt? Do you want a chance to practice law in the state of California? If you answered yes, check out our contact page here.

Methods of Getting Sponsored

If you are interested in entering into the Law Office Study Program, there are many factors to consider. If you think that you are ready for a rigorous course of work and to eventually take the bar exam, you need to make sure that you have the right support system behind you. This early stage of planning can make or break your chance to become a practicing attorney.

Since you will not be attending law school, you will be following from example. Much of your knowledge will come directly from the text of the law and case study, but much of the remainder will be actually studying under and with someone actually doing the job. In the state of California, you have the option of studying under an attorney or a judge. An attorney needs to have been practicing for five years to be eligible to become a sponsor.

You’re no longer just studying theory and hypothetical situations like you would be doing in law school. Here you can see much of what happens every day in a law office or in a courtroom itself. You can see how the law is actually practiced and challenged right before your eyes.

Impeach Yee
Our sacred honor

When you are looking for someone to sponsor you, you must prove yourself a worthwhile applicant. This person will be issuing a report to the state bar several times a year checking on your progress and is linking their good name with yours. You need to prove that you are a good candidate that will be worth four years of understudy and that you will be a competent and moral attorney once the process is over.

If you have proven yourself to a judge or currently practicing attorney, you will be able to determine if they are a good fit for you. You will be studying in their chambers or office for years. Make sure that their field of law is one that you will be practicing and worth the effort. Make sure that there are no personality clashes or moral lapses.

Such a person could be your partner one day. Or you could be arguing a case in front of them. Cultivate a relationship that will make you both better professionals when the program is done.