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Explain whether the court found that a legally binding and enforceable contract existed between Browneller and Plankenhorn and what the primary reason for its decision was.

Quick answer:

In the Plankenhorn case, the court did not find a binding contract between Plankenhorn and Browneller, for they had only made an oral agreement about the quality of the finished product. The court also rejected Browneller's claim of negligence because Browneller himself was partly at fault for the areas of complaint for failing to supply parts or mention issues during restoration.

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To help you answer these questions, let's review the facts of the case in question. Larry Browneller made the claim in the US Bankruptcy Court that debtor Hubert Plankenhorn owed him $7,000 to repair issues in the 1963 Chevy Impala that Plankenhorn restored for him. An oral agreement was made between the two men, and Plankenhorn made it clear to Browneller that the restored Impala would never be a “show car” because it would not have the proper identification number on its parts and because of its poor condition. Browneller agreed to this at the time but added that he still expected Plankenhorn to do a “damn good job.”

Throughout the restoration job, Browneller provided the necessary parts as well as money to purchase certain parts and materials and money for labor. The labor charge was below standard market rate. Browneller stopped by the shop on occasion to check the progress of the restoration and made no complaints at all, either about the work or about the time the work was taking. Browneller also made no complaint about the quality of the paint job on the car. When he paid the final money and picked up the car, he appeared to be satisfied.

But a week later, Browneller began to have complaints about the car and its restoration. He didn't like the “waves” in the paint, the driver's side door didn't fit right, and the neutral transmission switch and air conditioning were not hooked up. In court, Plankenhorn explained that Browneller never gave him the proper parts to do the transmission switch or the air conditioning and that the paint job could never be perfect because of issues in the car's structure. Browneller knew these things and did not mention them at all when the job was in progress.

The court ruled that there was no breach of contract, for no contract actually existed. The court acknowledged that there was a misunderstanding between the two parties about the quality expected in the finished car, but there was no negligence on Plankenhorn's part because the mechanic fulfilled his end of the bargain. The flaws Browneller pointed out after the fact were partly his own fault because he didn't provide the parts and did not mention his complaints during the restoration process. The court denied Browneller's claim to $7,000.

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