A man fleeing from police in 2009 burst into a home and held a husband and wife hostage and is now suing them for breach of an oral contract. There are several things wrong with this picture. For starters, being held hostage is bad enough and then to add insult to injury your kidnapper is going to sue you? Really?

Jesse Dimmick, now in jail serving an 11-year sentence, was running from the police in September 2009. He was wanted for questioning in a beating death case of a Colorado man. Apparently after he invited himself into the home of Jared and Lindsay Rowley he told them he was being chased and he promised them money in exchange for them hiding him from authorities.

Contract Formation

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties and apparently Dimmick feels he has one with the Rowleys.

While states may have varying law on contract formation, generally for an enforceable contract to be formed you essentially need:

1)      An offer (Proposal to form a contract)

2)      An acceptance

3)      Consideration (what one party to the contract will get in exchange for fulfilling contractual obligations)

In court documents, Dimmick states: "I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract."

Breach of Contract?

If a valid contract has been formed, non performance of whatever is promised in the contract could mean a breach. Dimmick’s argument that the Rowleys did not hide him from police could constitute a breach if only there truly were a valid contract.

The Rowley’s attorney, Robert E. Keeshan, argues that "[i]n order for parties to form a binding contract, there must be a meeting of the minds on all essential terms…” Additionally, the Rowleys only agreed to the let Dimmick into the house because he had a knife and potentially he could have had more.

There cannot be a breach of a contract that does not exist. Whether there were not enough essential terms outlined or the acceptance was made under duress, it is all the same. There are so many reasons this contract was never formed. The attorney could also argue that the Statute of Frauds requires all contracts that could take longer than a year to complete be in writing. No one knew how long Dimmick would be there. Also, a contract made in furtherance of a crime is void.

Retaliation

Dimmick’s lawsuit against the Rowleys is classic retaliation because the Rawleys are suing him for $75,000 for intruding into their home and emotional distress. In response to that lawsuit Dimmick wants $235,000 to help pay hospital bills he obtained because he was shot by police when they were arresting him.

The only thing that makes me feel better about this case is that Dimmick’s court documents were hand written, which sounds to me like he is representing himself.

What do you think? On the facts of what happened, was there a valid contract? Should a criminal be able to sue his victims?

Click here to learn more about contracts.

 

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