Update: “I’ll pay them a million dollars if they can do it.”

We reported five years ago on a contract-law hypothetical come to life: a criminal defense lawyer went on TV and said he’d give a million dollars if anyone could prove the prosecutor’s timeline was consistent with the known facts, whereupon an enterprising law student proceeded to do just that. The Eleventh Circuit said the proper test under Florida law was whether “a reasonable, objective person would have understood [the lawyer’s words] to be an invitation to contract.” And: “The exaggerated amount of ‘a million dollars’ – the common choice of movie villains and schoolyard wagerers alike — indicates that this was hyperbole.” And yet more: “we find it neither prudent nor permissible to impose contractual liability for offhand remarks or grandstanding.” [Ann Althouse, Lawrence Cunningham]


  • Would the court have ruled in the claimant’s favor if the defense counsel had affirmed his promise under cross-examination:
    “You say that you will pay one million dollars to anyone who can meet the prosecution’s time-line. Is that a binding commitment made under oath, or just empty rhetoric?”

    Attorneys are not subject to cross-examination, however, so I suppose my scenario is moot.

  • So lawyers can make claims in court when they thare are supposedly obligated to tell the truth and the penalty when proven false is nothing? I don’t buy the excuse that it was intended as a joke. The intent was to seriously sway the jury.