Is it legal to charge a fee that was never discussed?

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Is it legal to charge a fee that was never discussed?

I am a coach and I had a parent volunteer to embroider warm-up suits for the team because her daughter was on the team. She verbally told this in a meeting in front of parents, with no advanced warning of potential fees if her daughter was no longer on the team. I brought the suits to her home on about 2 weeks ago. The daughter was released from the team for disrespect last week. The mother is now refusing to give the suits back without charging a fee because her daughter is no longer on the team. Is this legal and she says then her verbal contract is now voided?

Asked on January 13, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There was no contract to begin with: the person offered or volunteered to do the embroidery. For there to be a contract, there must be offer, acceptance of the offer, and also consideration--or something given of value to bind the contract. She freely offered to do this without any compensation; therefore, there was no consideration and no contract.

That works in your favor: since there was no contract, she has no basis for holding onto the suits--if there had been a contract and you breached it in some way, she might be entitled to hold onto them to secure your performance, but since there is no agreement, she has no basis for grounds for holding onto other people's property.

That said, as a practical matter, if she refuses to give them back, you're going to have to sue her for the costumes--there is no other mechanism to recover them. So while you are legally in the right, it can be an expensive right to vindicate. Under those circumstances, assuming she did a decent job, you might be best off paying her a fair rate for the embroidery--that will be quicker and less expensive than legal action, and also involve less ill will and strife. Then in the future, you know to not work with this parent for town or school events.


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