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Howard v. Chimps, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-08-2012
Case #: A145765
Hadlock, J. for the Court; Haselton, P.J.; and Armstrong, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A145765.pdf

Contract Law: Even if a contract is subject to unilateral changes, consideration is found upon performance of the promises exchanged between the parties.

Howard appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Chimps. Howard was injured when a chimpanzee attacked her during her internship at an animal sanctuary, which resulted in the loss of her thumb. Howard argued that the release she signed was unenforceable for reasons of public policy, that its terms were subject to change, and that Chimps misrepresented the nature of her work. The Court of Appeals rejected Howard's claims of misrepresentation and the claim that the release violates public policy without discussion. The Court discussed the validity of the contract's "subject to change" clause which allowed Chimps to "change, delete, suspend or discontinue" any aspect of the policies "at any time." Howard asserted that because there was no mutuality of obligation, there was no contract. The Court rejected this because (1) even if the contract was subject to change, consideration was found in the exchange of promises Howard made with Chimps upon entering the sanctuary and signing the release, and (2) the Court does not believe the disclaimer language can reasonably be read as Howard asserted. The Court also rejects Howard's claim of gross negligence because it did not find that the sanctuary acted with reckless disregard. Affirmed.