Steinberg v. Chicago Medical School
Ø Robert Steinberg applied for admission to the Chicago Medical School as a first-year student and paid an application fee of $15.00
Ø The school, a private educations institution, rejected his application.
Ø Steinberg brought an action against the school, claiming that it did not evaluate his and other applications according to the academic entrance criteria printed in the school’s bulletin.
Ø Instead, Steinberg argues, the school based its decisions primarily on nonacademic considerations such as family connections between the applicant and his family to donate large sums of money to the school.
Ø Steinberg asserts that by evaluating his application according to these unpublished criteria, the school breached the contract it had created when it accepted his application fee.
Ø The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and Steinberg appealed.
Decision: Trial court’s dismissal reversed and case remanded.
Q: What is a contract?
A: A contract is simply a binding agreement that the courts will enforce
Rules that apply:
There are four basic requirements that need to be met before it is classified as a contractual contract, which is enforceable in the courts. The essentials of a contract are:
1) Mutual Assent – The parties to a contract must by show of words or conduct
that they have agreed to enter into a contract. The usual method of mutual assent is by offer and acceptance.
Ø In this case the offer is that Chicago Medical School will evaluate the application according to the standards printed in their bulletin and the acceptance was that Steinberg would pay the application fee of $15.
2) Consideration – Each party to a contract must intentionally exchange a legal
Benefit or incur a legal detriment as an inducement to the other party to make a return exchange. QUID PRO QUO – this for that.
Ø The exchange of values in this case was the $15 accepted by Chicago Medical School for evaluating an applicant to see if they met their standards to attend the school. The exchange of value for Steinberg was giving the $15 to Chicago Medical School to see if he would be accepted into the school where he wanted to attain an education for his career.
3) Legality of subject matter – The purpose of a contract must be not criminal,
tortuous, or otherwise against public policy.
Ø The subject matter in this case was legal.
4) Capacity – The parties to a contract must have mental understanding of what
they are entering into.
Ø Both parties entered this agreement understanding the terms.
Interpretation: The contract that Steinberg and Chicago Medical School entered into meets the four requirements for a contractual contract. The contract is therefore binding and legally enforceable.
Q: Did the Chicago Medical School act ethically? Explain
A: The Chicago Medical School did not act ethically in this situation because
They had stated the criteria of evaluating an application and when they accepted the $15 they agreed to evaluate the application according to their standards and they failed to do so when they evaluated Steinberg’s on the basis of whether or not Steinberg or his family could contribute money to the school.
Critical Thinking Question:
Q: Should the courts resolve this type of dispute on the basis of contract law?
A: Yes, the courts should because the terms of the contract were reasonable
certain and definite. The schools obligation under the contract was stated in the school’s bulletin in a definitive manner and that by accepting his application fee the school bound itself to fulfill its obligation. As for this contract the Chicago Medical School breached the contract between the two because they rejected his application based primarily on nonacademic considerations, which was not stated in the school’s bulletin.