News Flash: Blind Squirrel Finds Acorn

By David Pomeroy

Wow! A hole-in-one! What a thrill—not only to the golfer who made it, but to those who may have witnessed it. And what if a wonderful prize is offered for the feat? The highlight of any golfing life—until it isn’t because the offeror of the prize doesn’t want to perform. Litigation ensues.

A search shows much litigation over holes-in-one, but here is an interesting one: Pennsylvania golfer Cobaugh is playing his round in a golf tournament when he comes upon a par 3 with a sign from a local auto dealer offering a car to a golfer who gets a hole-in-one. Lo and behold, Cobaugh knocks his tee shot in. Joy ensues but is short lived because Dealer refuses to deliver the car.

Dealer claims that the car had been offered as a prize in a tournament held at the course 2 days earlier and Dealer had neglected to remove the sign. Cobaugh sued to compel delivery and obtained judgment. Dealer appealed.

Was Dealer obligated to deliver the car? Yes, said the appellate court, holding that Dealer’s manifested intent to enter into an agreement determines whether a person has the power to accept an offer. Cobaugh had no reason to believe the offer had been withdrawn or that it was limited to players who made a hole-in-one at a particular time. Cobaugh’s belief that the offer remained open was reasonable under the circumstances.

The offer specified the performance that was the consideration. Cobaugh had to do some act that he was not ordinarily required to do in order to win the car.

But wait—isn’t this a contract based on gambling and unenforceable? After all, the odds of a golfer getting a hole-in-one are so remote that it is a matter of luck, not skill. Nope, said the majority opinion—chance is not the dominant factor in shooting a hole-in-one, citing statistics that demonstrate that skilled golfers are more likely to perform the feat than are unskilled golfers.

Well, your blogger was in full accord with the decision until this last point. He is an enthusiastic but quite unskilled golfer—my game is so bad I have had to get my ball retriever re-gripped—who over the course of many years has had three aces. At least from a personal standpoint it is very certain that skill is not involved. These events only go to prove the old adage: even a blind squirrel will find an acorn. And blind squirrels are entitled to experience joy.


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