Normile v. Miller, 326 S.E.2d 11 (1985)

Case Name: Normile v Miller
Plaintiffs: Normile and Kurniawan
Defendant: Hazel Miller
Citation:
313 N.C. 98, 326 S.E.2d 11 (1985)


Key Facts:

Defendant listed real estate for sale with a local realtor. On the same day, a real estate broker, Richard Byer, showed the property to the plaintiffs who were prospective purchasers. Byer helped plaintiffs prepare a written offer to purchase the property. The offer was countered with various terms of the original offer amended. The plaintiff did not immediately accept or reject the offer and did not like all of the terms described in the counteroffer. Byer testified that Normile did not have $500 for earnest money deposit, which was one of the requirements of the defendant’s counteroffer, and thought that the plaintiff had rejected the counteroffer. The following day, plaintiff Segal signed an offer to purchase with terms very similar to those contained in defendant’s counteroffer to plaintiff Normile and Kurniawan. This offer was accepted by defendant (through the same agent), without any changes. Later that same day, the defendant revoked her counteroffer to plaintiff as the agent commented, “You snooze, you lose; the property has been sold.” Prior to the end of that same day, plaintiffs Normile and Kurniawan initialed the offer to purchase form containing defendant’s counteroffer and delivered the form to the defendant’s realtor, along with the earnest money deposit of $500.

Procedural History:
Plantiffs Normile and Kurniawan appealed to the Court of Appeals after the trial court denied their motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the trial court and plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Separate actions were filed by plaintiff-appellants and appellee seeking specific performance. Plaintiff Segal (the third party purchaser) was granted a motion for consolidation of trials. Plaintiff Segal was awarded summary judgment by the trial court and the defendant was ordered to perform the contract to convey the property to Segal.

Issue:
If a seller rejects a prospective purchaser’s offer to purchase but makes a counteroffer that is not accepted by the prospective purchaser, does the prospective purchaser have the power to accept after he receives notice that the counteroffer has been revoked?

Holding:
No, the prospective purchaser does not have the power to accept a counteroffer after he receives notice that the counteroffer has been revoked.

Reasoning:

There was no “meeting of the minds” between plaintiff-appellants and defendant since the parties failed to assent to the same thing in the same sense. The defendant’s counteroffer did not manifest any intent to accept the terms of the original offer, unless and until the original offeror accepted the terms of the defendant’s counteroffer.  A “qualified acceptance” constitutes a counter-offer and has the same effect as a rejection.

Nowhere in the counteroffer is there language to the effect that Defendant Miller “agrees to sell to the purchasers” if they accept by a certain date (no option contract). Also, the time-for-acceptance provision from the plaintiff-appellants’ original offer did not become part of the terms of the counter-offer. Therefore, the court concluded that the defendant made no promise or agreement to hold her offer open and was able to accept the third party’s offer.

 

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