Nationwide Mutual Insurance
Mears worked as a claims adjuster for Nationwide from Oct 1985 to Sept
Nationwide has regional convention every 3 years to boost employee
They needed to come up with a theme for the convention.
In order to come up with a theme, Nationwide sponsored a contest that
would award the employee whose theme was chosen.
Several months after Mears submitted his theme it was chosen.
Peterson, a committee member, notified Mears that his theme was chosen.
Mears claims Peterson told him that he won the two Mercedes; however,
Granted Mears $60,000.
Reversed verdict because the contest was not a contract since the terms
were not nearly definite enough to be enforced and there is simply no
reasonable certain basis for giving an appropriate remedy.
Granted a new trial on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient
to substantiate the amount of damages.
Court of Appeals
Reversed, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury
verdict and [there is] inadequate basis for a new trial.
Peterson told him that he had won two Mercedes.
Peterson warned him that he might not receive the automobiles for three
reasons: first, Nationwide might change the convention theme;
second, Mears was no longer employed by Nationwide; and third,
the contest was a joke.
Committee Member Handy
(Communication to Mears)
Handy informed Mears that Nationwide never intended to award the two
[cars], and offered Mears a restaurant gift certificate instead.
Mears sued Nationwide
Breach of contract.
Admitted that the contest was legitimate.
Argued that Mears was not entitled to the two Mercedes-Benz automobiles
as a prize.
Found in favor of Mears to $60,000.
The court held that "the 'contract' sued on herein was simply not a
contract because the terms are not nearly
definite enough to be enforced and there is
simply no reasonably certain basis
for giving an appropriate remedy."
Granted a new trial on the grounds that the
evidence was insufficient to substantiate the amount of
Challenging both the judgment as a matter of law and the contingent new
Court of Appeals
(Look to substantive law of the State of Arkansas)
Judgment as a matter of law was NOT justified in this instance.
In order to be binding, a contract must be
reasonably certain as to its terms
Sufficient Certain Contract Rule
A contract is sufficiently certain if it provides a basis for
determining the existence of a breach and for giving an
The law does not favor the destruction of contracts because of
Contest Prize offering (Analysis)
Gave no indication of which prize the winning theme submitter would
However, a contract that is facially ambiguous
can be made certain by the subsequent
actions or declarations of the parties.
At trial, both Peterson and Mears testified that she told him that
he had won two Mercedes while at a dinner attended by many
It appears that others around Mears also believed that he had
won the automobiles.
Uncertainty Of Type Mercedes (Analysis)
Contract terms are interpreted with strong consideration for what is
Under a reasonable interpretation of the contest contract, the jury
could expect the automobiles to be new.
When Minor Ambiguity Exists in a contract
Allows the complaining party to insist on the reasonable interpretation
that is least favorable to him.
A contract that specified only the make of the automobile had enough
certainty to be enforceable.
Courts will NOT enforce a contract where the determination of damages
is left to speculation and conjecture.
The burden rests with the plaintiff to present evidence sufficient to
fix damages in dollars and cents.
Supplied invoices from a Mercedes Dealership of $31,450.
Court of Appeals (Mears Research)
Damages need not be proven with absolute, mathematical certainty.
The damages are the value of the automobiles.
Court of Appeals (Abuse
The price of the Mercedes takes the award out of the field of
Reinstate Jury's Verdict for $60,000.