This is a classic war story from first year contracts that shows the treachery cocktail of contracts and liquor.

THE WAR: Lucy v. Zehmer

Hardy and Ida Zehmer were a married couple living in Virginia in the 1950s.  Together, they owned and operated a a bar, a gas station, a motel and a farm. They had a friend, Welford Lucy, who from time to time expressed an interest in buying their farm. On December 20, 1952, Lucy brought a bottle of whiskey to Zehmer’s restaurant and Hardy and Lucy began drinking something fierce. Hardy Zehmer drank so much, he later claimed to be “high as a Georgia pine.”

They discussed the sale of Zehmer’s farm to Lucy for $50,000.  At the end of the evening, Zehmer wrote a contract on the back of an order pad that said,

We hereby agree to sell to W. O. Lucy the Ferguson Farm complete for $50,000.00, title satisfactory to buyer.

Hardy got Ida to sign it.  Welford Lucy put it in his pocket and walked out. Welford Lucy then sued to enforce the contract and a bitter fight broke out that went to the Virginia Supreme Court.


Welford Lucy, the guy who brought the bottle, won the right to buy the farm (literally).  The court said that Hardy Zehmer’s actions and words could reasonably be viewed by Lucy as an offer to sell his farm. The 40 minute discussion about price and title, the written document and the fact that both spouses signed the document didn’t help Hardy make his case. The Zehmer’s were forced to sell their farm.


Be careful and be clear about the steps left to make a promise. And, never sign anything when you’re high as a Georgia pine.


By the way, here is the contract. 

The actual contract

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