The Holidays are a time for joy, giving and storytelling. Some of Christmas’ most engaging tales have a lot to do with Business and Successions Law. See: “The Santa Clause.”
One well-known Christmas anecdote is the timeless tale of Scott Calvin in Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clause.” The age-old question: “Is Santa immortal or does he have a chain of succession?” is answered within the first 15 minutes, when Scott Calvin accidentally startles Santa, who consequently tumbles off of the roof and…dies? Scott finds a business card with the following instructions:
“If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.”
Little did he know that he held a binding contract and his next choice would signify either his acceptance or rejection. Through a series of confused antics and bad decisions, Scott puts on the suit and enters Santa’s sleigh, contractually obligating him to assume the role of Santa Claus until the next poor sap pushes him off a roof and inherits the position. (Don’t worry. That doesn’t happen.)
But is this contract valid? Let’s examine the evidence.
- The Four Requirements of a Legal Contract are (1) capacity (2) consent (3) lawful cause and (4) lawful object. Typically, if one is to go about challenging a contract, “consent” is the first subject on the table. Was a valid offer presented to Scott Calvin and did he willfully accept? The terms of the contract were for Scott to put on the suit and get in the sleigh, which he did. But what about the fine print?
- When is Fine Print too Small? In The Santa Clause, the fine print embossing Santa’s business card was only readable through an comically large magnifying glass. Is this legally valid? Maybe fifteen years ago. Today, courts require clear and understandable language in contracts. Due to the illegibility of the contract, Scott could have considered challenging the “Santa Clause.”
- Missing Specifications– This contract is missing critical information! Most importantly, there is no way to end or terminate the contract. According to the “Santa Clause,” Scott must diligently perform his duties as Santa in perpetuity (or until his own demise).
While I cannot speak for the courts at the North Pole, Louisiana Law probably would not accept the card as a binding contract. However, we are thankful that Santa continues to grace our homes each year. Just remember, if you hear a thump outside your window, read the fine print and don’t put on the suit!