A million-dollar challenge isn’t a contract, says the Eleventh Circuit

Kolodziej v. Mason, No. 14-10644 (11th Cir. Dec. 18, 2014).

Attorney James Mason was representing Nelson Serrano, accused of four murders. On NBC News, Mason threw some serious shade on the prosecution’s account of the murders, under which Serrano traveled from the Atlanta airport to a hotel miles away in less than half an hour. If somebody could make the journey on the prosecution’s timeline, Mason said, “I’ll challenge ’em. I’ll pay them a million dollars if they can do it.”

Law student Dustin Kolodziej, watching this challenge on TV, took Mason’s words to be an offer to contract. He recorded his journey from the airport to the hotel—a journey that took less than half an hour—sent the recording to Mason, and asked for a million dollars. Mason, perhaps not surprisingly, didn’t pay up. 

The question before the Eleventh Circuit is whether a reasonable person listening to Mason’s challenge would have interpreted it as a unilateral offer to contract. The Eleventh Circuit says that a reasonable person wouldn’t have interpreted it that way.

Thus does this case join the Pepsi Harrier case in the textbooks.