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

UPDATED: Jan 13, 2012

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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