Morrison v. Thoelke
155 So.2d 889 (Fla. App. 2 Dist. 1963)

  • The Morrisons owned some property in Florida that they were interested in selling to Thoelke.
    • Thoelke mailed a contract for the sale of the property to the Morrisons in Texas. Then the Morrisons signed the contract and sent it back to Florida.
  • After mailing the contract back but before Thoelke received it, the Morrisons changed their mind and called to repudiate the contract so they could sell the land to someone else.
  • The Morrisons sued to quiet title in order to try to prevent Thoelke from selling the property.
    • Morrison argued that a renunciation prior to receipt of the acceptance voids the acceptance.
      • Basically, acceptance is complete only upon receipt of the mailed acceptance.
    • Thoelke argued the acceptance was effective when the letter of acceptance was put in the mailbox.
    • Quiet title is a property term that means that the title to the property has some confusion to it, and they can’t sell the property or borrow on it while there is this confusion.
  • The Trial Court found for the Morrisons. Thoelke appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that that the repudiation was effective,
  • The Appellate Court reversed and found in favor of Thoelke.
    • The Appellate Court found the contract is regarded as made at the time and place that the letter of acceptance is put into the possession of the post office.
      • An acceptance is effective upon mailing and not receipt.
    • The Court found that there must be a point in time when a contract is complete. The acceptance was manifested at the point of depositing in the mail.
  • This is known as the mailbox rule.
    • It is efficient to establish a “bright line” hard-edged rule for the sake of efficiency. This is satisfied by making acceptance effective at the time the envelope goes into the mailbox.
  • Every State in the US follows the mailbox rule.
    • The mailbox rule is very rigid. It is effective even if the letter is lost in the mail!
    • The mailbox rule has also been applied to telegrams and faxes.
    • Remember, you can write anything you want into a contract, including a provision that that an acceptance is only valid when received, but you have to explicitly state that.
    • The mailbox rule is counterintuitive, since everything else in contract law is effective on receipt, not on delivery.