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Is A Coin Toss Legally Binding?

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feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is a coin toss legally binding?

Two brothers in New York were left a large inheritance by their uncle, whose $5.6 million estate included an art collection. One piece, “Jug with Lemon” by artist Fernando Botero, was apparently of sentimental value to both so, to decide who got it, they flipped a coin. What a creative and non-litigious way to settle a bet. The end.

Just kidding, the loser sued.

If both parties agree to settle a dispute by a flip of the coin, is the outcome, though left to chance, legally binding?

In general, parties who agree to all the terms of a contract don’t have to write it down for it to be binding. That said, there are some contracts that need to be in writing in order to be valid: contracts for the sale of land, contracts for services that last for more than a year, and some states say that contracts for the sale of goods worth over a certain amount of money must be in writing.

To remedy this problem, though, as a town in Canada did when it decided to pick the winning bid from two identical bidders by flipping a coin, put the agreement in writing. I agree that whoever wins this coin toss will win the painting, contract, bet that one will have to run around the town in his underwear or what have you.

Now sign here, here, and here. And put away that two-headed coin of yours.

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