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The Oxford Companion to American Law (Oxford Companions)

The Oxford Companion to American Law (Oxford Companions) - Kermit L. Hall, David S. Clark Not being a lawyer, I have no professional need to own this book, but I picked it up on the cheap (used), out of casual interest. Now and then I'll have occasion to wonder about something law-related, and it's fun to peruse these pages to see if I can make heads or tails of this lawyerly world around me. Today was just such an instance. My wife and I were talking and we realized: you know, in that bar in Mos Eisley, where all those crazy creatures lived? Obi-Wan Kenobi made a verbal contract with Han Solo for transportation to Alderaan. The deal was that he would pay Han $2000 up-front (I'm going to use dollars here, even though we all know it was some other currency), and then $15,000 when they reach Alderaan. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But then when they come out of the other side of hyperspace, Alderaan had been destroyed. So I'm thinking that really Han was kind of in breech of the contract at that point, because he would never be able to take Kenobi and his party to Alderaan. If Kenobi had been thinking clearly, he probably should have thereupon asked for a refund, but everybody was distracted because the Millenium Falcon was being sucked up into the Death Star. Then a bunch of other stuff happened... yadda, yadda... and Obi-Wan gets killed. So at that point it kind of looks like a wash. Obi-Wan makes a contract; he puts $2000 up front; Han Solo can't fulfill the terms; then Obi-Wan gets killed... so that's the end of that story, right? Han Solo keeps the $2000, but he can forget about the $15k? Well, here's where it actually gets a little bit messy: you see, the $2000 Obi-Wan fronted Han wasn't actually his; it was Luke Skywalker's. Luke sold his landspeeder on Tatooine to raise the $2000. So here is what I want to know:What is Luke's legal status here? Was he a party to the contract between Obi-Wan and Han Solo? He didn't verbally take part in the negotiation, but the agreement did, after all, include him as one of the passengers to be transported to Alderaan, and he did willingly and knowingly transact money towards fulfilling Obi-Wan's end of the bargain. The practical question I'm getting at is this: does Luke have standing to ask Han Solo for a refund? And if not, does he have any basis to sue the estate of Obi-Wan Kenobi for a return of his $2000? Oxford's Companion to American Law to the rescue!(and yes, I know that American law does not have jurisdiction in the Star Wars universe, but that is the only legal frame of reference I have to discuss these questions.) This handy little book certainly justified its price today! I found out several useful tidbits...First of all, did you know that (p161) "...A further leading principle of contracts must be partly in writing to be valid..." So all that wheeling and dealing going on between Obi-Wan and Han Solo in the bar? That was just two guys talking... not enforceable. (heh) No contract. Sorry.Also, there was a clause in Obi-Wan and Han's agreement... nothing spelled out too specifically... more of a wink-and-a-nod kind of thing (ifyaknowwhatimean) where Ben specifies one of the terms of the ticket is "Let's just say we'd like to avoid any Imperial entanglements". What did he mean by that? Was he just innocently stating a preference, or was it more? ...and the real issue at hand is this: was Ben asking Han to do something illegal? Because if he was, that also invalidates the contract. You cannot make a legally enforceable contract to do something illegal. I would argue that Ben was giving implicit instructions to take illegal action, if need be, to avoid being stopped, questioned, detained, or otherwise impeded by Imperial authorities. My basis: the circumstances under which the Millenium Falcon left Mos Eisley spaceport. Imperial guards spot the ship, and one of them yells "Stop that ship! Blast 'em!". Han Solo discharges his weapon at the law officer, and yells "Chewie [i.e. Chewbacca] get us out of here!", then runs up into the ship, and they fly off into outer space, evading capture. Obi-Wan is completely complicit to all of this. There's no "Oh my God! What are you doing?! You just shot at that guard! We have to turn back! &c."So there you have at least two compelling reasons why Luke Skywalker will never get his $2000 back. Thanks, Oxford's Companion to American Law! It is such an awfully beautiful book, too, with leather cover and gold-leaf pages. It's one of the prettiest books I own.You know, on further reflection, it seems that neither Luke Skywalker nor Han Solo were very savvy about contracts, money or even common sense. Later in the story, when they are trapped on the Death Star, Luke wants to go rescue the Princess, and he's trying to convince Han to take part. Check out this dialogue: LUKE They're going to execute her. Look, a few minutes ago you said you didn't want to just wait here to be captured. Now all you want to do is stay. HAN Marching into the detention area is not what I had in mind. LUKE But they're going to kill her! HAN Better her than me... LUKE She's rich. Chewbacca growls. HAN Rich? LUKE Yes. Rich, powerful! Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be... HAN What? LUKE Well more wealth that you can imagine. HAN I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit! LUKE You'll get it! HAN I better! LUKE You will...What the hell is going on there? Luke obviously can't make a promise like that! And Han really ought to consider: he knows that the Princess' planet was just destroyed. I'm sure she had a diversified portfolio, but isn't it reasonable to think that most of her wealth was invested on Alderaan? After the Death Star blew it up, did he assume that she was still wealthy? My guess is the destruction of Alderaan bankrupted more than a few insurance companies. This is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of the Oxford's Companion to American Law.