Lucy vs. Zehmer Case Study Paper Example

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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The case brief on Lucy vs. Zehmer involves a contract agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff. The case was examined and determined at Virginia Supreme Court. The defendant indicates in a napkin the purpose to sell a piece of land. However, the defendant claims he was just joking when the plaintiff tries to enforce the agreement. The defendant in the case brief is known as Zehmer while the plaintiff is called Lucy.

Citation : 196 Va.493, 84 S.E.2d 516 ; 1954 Va LEXIS 244

The type of case

The case is a contract dispute between Lucy and Zehmer.

Facts of the case

Lucy, the plaintiff, sued the defendant Zehmer for contract performance. The defendant is claiming a sale of a tract of land of approximately 471.6 acres to the plaintiff for $50, 000. This occurred before Christmas when the defendant and the plaintiff were sitting enjoying a drink. The two were thus engaged in a discussion about a land that was being sold at $50, 000. The two parties, therefore, developed a contract. The defendant signed the contract indicating they would avail a land worth $50, 000. The plaintiff thus offered $5 to ensure the agreement was adhered to but the defendant failed to agree to the same. According to a waiter who testified, the defendant stated very categorically that he was joking. The plaintiff involved his brother to ensure the availability of half of the money. However, when the plaintiff went back to the defendant, the defendant stressed that he was joking. The defendant maintained that he stated he was joking right from the beginning when the contract was developed. According to the defendants attorney, he was not too drunk to engage in the contract (Cameron & Pagnattaro, 2017)

Procedural Posture:

Lucy hired an attorney to ensure the examination of the land title. The case thus became intense when the attorney wrote a letter to the defendant concerning the closure of the deal. The case reached the court once the defendant argued he was not serious about the deal and was just joking. The case was heard at the Virginia Supreme court. The case was an appeal that followed the decree from the Dinwiddie County Circuit Court. J. G. Jefferson who presided over the case made the circuit court declaration. The holding of the court was that no one should argue that he was jesting when the records indicate the words used warranted a reasonable individual in believing an agreement was intended.


The issue at the court involved the case concerning an agreement to buy land. The main issue was thus whether the agreement represented a serious transaction and whether the parties exhibited good faith in the sale and purchase of the property.

Decision and Analysis:

In every contract, the outward expression of an individual as manifested by his intentions is mandatory. The outward expression unlike the unexpressed intentions and the secrets determines the ruling concerning the contracts. This is because Zehmer had never indicated by either act or word that he was never committed and not serious about the sale of the land. According to the court, acceptance faith and good faith offer are fundamental in the ruling about a contract; it could have been significant if the defendant exhibited evidence indicating the plaintiff drinking when the contract was formulated.

What did the court hold and why? Is there a contract? Why or Why not?

The court held that evidence indicated that Zehmer was not drunk to the extent of being unable to understand the consequences and the nature of the contract. The holding was so because Lucy was justified in acknowledging that it was a serious business agreement rather than a joke.

Is there a dissent?

There was no dissent since the decision was unanimous and was read on behalf of the court by Archibald C. Buchanan.

What are you supposed to learn from reading the case?

The case informs me that business agreements require seriousness and good will. It is unlawful to joke with serious business transactions and make an individual believe in the same. The case also informs me that one should not engage in business agreement when intoxicated. It is, therefore, important to make up the final decision about selling a property before engaging and signing a contract.


Cameron, E. A., & Pagnattaro, M. A. (2017). Beyond Millennials: Engaging Generation Z in Business Law Classes. Journal of Legal Studies Education, 34(2), 317-324.

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