Offer and acceptance

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You should now know what qualifies as an offer and when an offer terminates. The next question in contract formation is whether an open offer as been accepted. So what exactly do we mean when we talk about contractual “acceptance”?

Offer Controls Acceptance. When we say that the offeror is “master of the offer,” we mean that the offeror gets to define how the offer must be accepted.


On April 10, Olivia Owner offers Peter Painter $5,000 to paint the exterior of Owner’s lakefront cabin. The job will, however, require scraping off some of the older paint around the porch that has been peeling. Painter says he is not sure he can do it for that price. Owner, who is about to leave on a fourteen-day cruise in the Mediterranean, says, “Well, think about it. You can decide while I’m off on the holiday. If you agree, just go ahead and do it.” Owner then departs. Two days later, on April 12, Painter goes to the cabin and spends six hours scraping paint. This takes much more time than Painter estimated, and he realizes that this job would be much more work than he expected and that he would need to get more than $5,000 for the work. He quits and leaves the premises. The next day, April 13, Painter is offered a job that pays a good deal more and will take a couple of weeks to complete. He immediately emails Owner that he’s decided not to do the lakefront cabin job. Owner is unable to check emails for a few days, and ultimately sees Painter’s message on April 15. When Owner returns, she discovers that she cannot hire anyone else to paint the cabin for less than $8,500. She demands that Painter finish the work. He refuses. She hires another company and sues for the $3,500. Painter moves for summary judgment on the ground that no contract was ever formed. What will the two sides argue in this case?

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