While an offer of reward might not be viewed as a contract (much less a reward offered via social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube), such an offer can still be considered binding. That is the claim made by Armin Augstein who found and returned the laptop belonging to the “Diamond Girl” singer, Ryan Leslie.
The laptop went missing in October 2010 from the back of a Mercedes S350 that was briefly left unattended when Leslie was escorted by security into a nightclub in Cologne, Germany. The bag containing the laptop also held $10,000 in cash and Leslie’s passport. But it was the computer and the hard drive, which contained the rapper’s music, that Leslie was anxious to have returned to him. He initially offered a $20,000 reward for the return of the MacBook. Then he took to Twitter and YouTube to announce that the reward had been increased to $1 million.
52-year-old German Armin Augstein said he found the laptop on a park bench while walking is dog in Stommelerbusch, Germany, about a month after the laptop went missing. The rapper allegedly reneged on his promise of the $1 million reward, claiming he couldn’t retrieve his recording sessions from the hard drive. Augstein then sued the Harlem-based musician for backing out of his promise of a reward to whomever should return the laptop. Michael Fischman, Augstein’s U.S.-based attorney, was quoted at the time as saying that it was “unfortunate that my client has to go to such lengths to recover the reward.” The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and sought the $1 million reward, plus interest and listed Ryan Leslie and his company, NextSelection, as defendants.
A New York federal jury ruled in favor of Augstein’s claim for the reward in 2012 and ordered Leslie and NextSelection to pay Augstein $1.18 million. Leslie has still refused to pay up though, and Augstein is now accusing the R&B artist of hiding funds in order to avoid paying him the court-ordered reward. Augstein has recently asked state judges to order Leslie to pay the promised reward from funds held by Les is More, the corporation that pays all of Leslie’s personal bills. The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges that “Les is More was formed to replace NextSelection and thereby shield (Leslie’s) assets.”
While many people insist on having certain promises made in writing for fear that, otherwise, there will be no way to make sure the person making the promise comes through on their end of the deal, such lengths are not always necessary. Many courts recognize verbal contracts and, in a scenario such as this one, where there is a digital record of the promise, a case can easily be made that a contract was entered into. Leslie’s tweet and YouTube video led Augstein to reasonably believe that he would receive a substantial reward in return for returning the musician’s MacBook and hard drive, regardless of whether anything could be retrieved from them.
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