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Lucy v. Zehmer

Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia
84 S.E.2d 516 (1954)



On the evening of December 20, 1952, A.H. Zehmer (defendant) was drinking alcohol in a bar and was approached by his acquaintance, W.O. Lucy (plaintiff). Lucy was also drinking, and bought additional drinks for Zehmer. The two began conversing, and Lucy offered to purchase a farm owned by Zehmer for $50,000. Lucy had offered to purchase the same farm several times on previous occasions, and Zehmer always refused. On this particular occasion, Zehmer and Lucy spoke for forty minutes about Lucy’s purchasing the farm, and Zehmer expressed doubt that Lucy could come up with the $50,000. Lucy stated he could, and invited Zehmer to write out a contract for sale. Zehmer drafted an agreement on the back of a bar receipt stating his intention to sell the farm to Lucy for $50,000. Lucy examined it, and requested that Zehmer rewrite the agreement to include his wife’s agreement to sell the property, and have his wife signed it. Zehmer obliged and asked his wife (who was also in the bar) to sign the agreement. When she initially refused, Zehmer whispered to her that the whole matter was merely a joke. Zehmer’s wife signed the agreement, but neither party communicated to Lucy that they intended it to be a joke. The agreement also contained a provision for examination of title, and a description of what would be included in the sale. Zehmer completed the agreement and gave it to Lucy, who offered Zehmer $5 to close the deal. At this point, Zehmer realized Lucy was serious and stated that he intended the agreement to be a joke. Lucy left the bar, and enlisted his brother to help him raise the $50,000 pursuant to the agreement. They were successful and upon completion of a title check, Lucy again stated his intention to purchase the farm from Zehmer pursuant to their agreement. Zehmer refused, and Lucy sued for specific performance. The trial court held Lucy was not entitled to specific performance, and Lucy appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Buchanan, J.)

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