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A decision earlier in the week by the Maryland Court of Appeals has been making the rounds in the legal community. The ruling concerned a dispute between author Tom Clancy and his ex-wife and business partner, Wanda King. Allegedly, Clancy tried to harm the business partnership by removing his name from a series of books called “Tom Clancy’s Op-Center.”
The court ruled why the circuit court was in error in allowing Clancy to do this and remanded the case back to the trial level. Here’s the entire ruling.
However, the real reason why the case is getting a bit of buzz is a single footnote that borrows dialogue from an episode of “Seinfeld” to explain why spite isn’t a valid reason to void a partnership.
Read footnote 27 after the jump:
The Appeals Court writes:
“Jerry Seinfeld, perhaps an unlikely legal illustrator, once epitomized the duty of
good faith in contract. In an episode of his television show, Jerry’s character purchased a
jacket at a men’s clothing shop. The terms of the contract permitted Jerry to return the item
for refund at his discretion. When Jerry attempted to return the jacket after an unrelated
personal quarrel with the salesman, the following discussion took place.
Jerry: Excuse me, I’d like to return this jacket.
Clerk: Certainly. May I ask why?
Jerry: For spite.
Jerry: That’s right. I don’t care for the salesman that sold it to me.
Clerk: I don’t think you can return an item for spite.
Jerry: What do you mean?
Clerk: Well, if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way, then we could do it for you, but I’m afraid spite doesn’t fit into any of our conditions for a refund.
Jerry: That’s ridiculous, I want to return it. What’s the difference what the reason is?
Clerk: Let me speak with the manager . . . excuse me . .. Bob!
(walks over to the manager and whispers)
Bob: What seems to be the problem?
Jerry : Well, I want to return this jacket and she asked me why and I said for spite and now she won’t
take it back.
Bob: That’s true. You can’t return an item based purely on spite.
Jerry: Well, so fine then . . . then I don’t want it and then that’s why I’m returning it.
Bob: Well you already said spite so . . . .
Jerry: But I changed my mind.
Bob: No, you said spite. Too late.”
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