Lesson 22 of 21
In Progress

6.3: Applying what you Learned to a New Case

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Goals:

  • Use your case reading skills to read a new case and recognize the major parts of the case.
  • Recognize how courts rely on precedent in reaching their decisions.

Instructions:

  1. Below you will see:
    1. A background summary for the Nguyen v. Barnes & Noble case
    2. an excerpt from the same case
  2. Read the background
  3. Next look at the excerpt
    1. First, find the holding
    2. Then, read the excerpt from the beginning
    3. OPTIONAL: If you want to read the entire case, you can find it in the Materials tab.
  4. After you have finished reviewing the excerpt, answer the Self-Assessment question below and check your answers.

Background: Nguyen v. Barnes & Noble

Defendant (Barnes & Noble) is a well-known online store selling books and electronics. Barnes & Noble offered tablet computers for sale on its website. Plaintiff, Mr. Nguyen, purchased the tablets at the sale price on Defendant’s website but then Barnes & Noble cancelled his order saying the tablets were no longer in the store’s inventory. 

Mr. Nguyen sued Barnes & Noble for breach of contract, alleging that he accepted an offer to purchase the tablets at the discounted price, thereby creating a contract. Barnes & Noble moved to dismiss the case, arguing that there was no offer.

Next, read the excerpt of the case:

Excerpt: Nguyen v. Barnes & Noble (C.D. Cal. 2015)

[1] Barnes & Noble first argues its display of tablets for purchase on its website did not constitute an “offer” Nguyen could accept by placing his order.

 

[2] In support of this proposition, Barnes & Noble cites numerous cases for the well-established rule that advertisements are ordinarily considered invitations to deal rather than offers in themselves. See, e.g., Trell v. Am. Ass’n of Advancement of Sci., 04-CV-0030E SR, 2007 WL 1500497, at *6 (W.D.N.Y. May 21, 2007) (finding a magazine’s internet advertisement seeking “news tips” was an invitation to deal, not an offer plaintiff could accept by submitting his manuscript); Lovett v. Frederick Loeser & Co., 207 N.Y.S. 753, 755 (N.Y. Mun. Ct. 1924) (finding a retailer’s newspaper advertisement of goods for sale constituted an “invitation to enter into negotiations”).

 

[3] Nguyen argues, however, that this case falls under the equally well-established exception to that rule holding that an advertisement will constitute an offer where it is so “clear, definite, and explicit” that it leaves “nothing open for negotiation.” Trell v. Am. Ass’n for Advancement of Sci., 310 Fed.Appx. 447, 448 (2d Cir. 2009). [4] For instance, in Lefkowitz, the defendant retailer’s newspaper advertisement read as follows:

Saturday 9 A.M. 2 Brand New Pastel Mink 3-Skin Scarfs Selling for [ ]

$89.50

Out they go Saturday.

Each … $1.00

1 Black Lapin Stole Beautiful, worth $139.50 … $1.00

First Come First Served

Lefkowitz v. Great Minneapolis Surplus Store, Inc., 86 N.W. 2d 689, 690 (Minn. 1957). [5] The plaintiff was the first customer to appear at that time seeking the black lapin coat, but the store refused to sell it to him. Id. [6] The Court found the advertisement was an offer because it was “clear, definite, and explicit, and left nothing open for negotiation.” Id. at 691. [7] Thus, the plaintiff validly accepted the offer by appearing at the store at the specified time and tendering the coat’s purchase price. Id. at 692.

[8] The case at bar is closely analogous to Lefkowitz. [9] Barnes & Noble’s display of “HP TouchPad Tablet with 16GB Memory” for “$101.95 Online Price” was clear and definite as to the item in question and price at which it was to be sold. [10] Moreover, Barnes & Noble’s exhortation to visitors to “BUY THIS ITEM / Add to Bag” and then “check out” of the store clearly specified how website customers including Nguyen could accept the offer. (FAC ¶ 7.) [11] Because this display was “clear, definite, and explicit” as to all essential terms—namely, the item to be sold, the price, and the manner of acceptance—it “left nothing open for negotiation” and therefore constituted an offer Nguyen could accept. See Lefkowitz, 86 N.W. 2d at 691; cf. Brown Machine, Division of John Brown, Inc. v. Hercules, Inc., 770 S.W.2d 416, 419 (Mo. Ct. App. 1989) (noting that a price quotation “can amount to an offer creating the power of acceptance … [if it] appear[s] from the price quote that assent to the quote is all that is needed to ripen the offer into a contract”).

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Self- Assessment

  • Answer the following questions
  • Then, click the “+” to check your answers against your instructor’s suggested answers.

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Sentence 11. In this sentence the Court answers the legal question as to whether the advertisement on Defendant’s website was an offer to form a contract. The Court explains that Plaintiff’s case should not be dismissed because  the advertisement on the website contained sufficient details for the advertisement to constitute an offer to form a contract.

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  • Sentence 4 (The Court introduces the Lefkowitz case)
  • Sentence 5 [The Court discusses the facts of Lefkowitz)
  • Sentence 6 [The Court explains the reasoning and holding  in Lefkowitz]
  • Sentence 7 [The Court explains the holding in Lefkowitz]
  • Sentence 8 [The Court explains that the facts in Nguyen’s case are similar to the facts in Lefkowitz]
  • Sentence 11 [The Court cites Lefkowitz in holding that the webiste advertisement constituted an offer].

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In those cases the courts held that the advertisements at issue were not offers. The holdings in those cases are the exact opposite of Lefkowitz, which held that the advertisement was an offer to enter into a contract.

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Because the court wants to show that the facts before it are similar to the facts in Lefkowitz. By showing how the facts in Nguyen’s case are similar to the facts in Lefkowitz, the court is able to support its holding that the offer on the Barnes & Noble website was sufficiently definite to constitute an offer.

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Sentence 8. ‘The case at bar’ means “This case.”

And the facts in the cases are similar so the court reasons the result should be the same.

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True. The Court relies on the reasoning and  holding in Lefkowitz to hold that the advertisement in this case was an offer to enter into a contract.

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False. Only an appellate court affirms a lower court’s decision. The parties in Lefkowitz, of course, did not file an appeal with this Court, so we would not say that the Court “affirmed” Lefkowitz. It did, however, rely on Lefkowitz to reach its decision.

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True. The Nguyen Court is a California federal court and Lefkowitz was a Minnesota case so Lefkowitz was not binding on the Nguyen Court.  Lefkowitz was persuasive precedent that the Nguyen Court cited favorably.

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False. The Nguyen Court reasoned that Lefkowitz presented facts similar to this case because the advertisements included sufficient details to constitute an offer to form a contract. Because the Nguyen Court reasoned that both cases presented similar facts, the Court did not distinguish Lefkowitz but instead relied on it in reaching its decision.

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Choose the best answer to each of the following questions.

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1. Which sentence has a case citation with no introductory signal?

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There is no signal before the citation to Lefkowitz in sentence 4 because the case is quoting Lefkowitz.

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There is a case signal in sentence 2: see, e.g. so look for a case without a signal.

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There is no case citation nor an introductory case signal in sentence 9.

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2. Which sentence has a case signal that states these are just some cases that support this sentence?

 

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There is neither a case citation nor an introductory case signal in sentence 1.

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See, e.g., before the cases means these are just examples and there are more cases.

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There are multiple citations in sentence 11 but the first is “See” which suggests somewhat indirect support and cf. which suggests more indirect support. Neither case signal suggests this is just one of several cases the writer could cite.

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3. The Nguyen case you just read is a California federal case. Lefkowitz is a Minnesota state case. Which of the following best describes Lefkowitz?

 

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Binding precedent

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The courts in Minnesota cannot bind a court in California

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Persuasive & on-point

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Lefkowitz is not controlling because it is from a different jurisdiction but it presents very similar facts

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Inapposite

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Although the facts in Lefkowitz might not be identical and it is from another jurisdiction, it is difficult to say the case is irrelevant

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