South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Breach of Contract When Race Only Has One-Third Normal Competitors
Description

Appeals court held that the fans attending a Formula One race did not have a breach of contract suit, or suit based on promissory estoppel, when a race was held with only one-third the normal number of cars due to unexpected tire problems that forced two-third of the cars not to race.

Topic Contracts
Key Words

Breach; Promissory Estoppel; Advertising

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

The Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) runs Formula One races in the U.S. During practice runs at the Indy Speedway, two cars had rear tire blowouts on the same curve. This being unusual, an investigation showed that the Michelin tires were defective, and Michelin agreed. There being no time to get different tires, the 14 teams that used Michelin could not race, leaving the race to be run by six teams using Bridgestone tires. Various fans sued for breach of contract, demanding a refund of their ticket price plus the cost of travel and other expenses. Plaintiffs contended the advertising promised a race with twenty cars, not six, and defendants were estopped from offering less. The suits were consolidated and dismissed by the trial court.

Decision

Affirmed. The organizers of the race did not breach the ticket contract as the racing organization body considered the race to be official and it did not breach any rules of the organization. The FIA could have cancelled the race had it wished, but it used its best efforts to hold a race. No reasonable fan would have regarded the race’s advertising concerning the race to give grounds for suit on the theory of promissory estoppel. That only applies when a defendant intended to induce reasonable reliance by the plaintiff by making a promise the defendant had a duty to fulfill.

Citation

Bowers v. Federation Internationale de L’Automobile, 489 F.3d 316 (7th Cir., 2007)

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