No barber wealth that day

Consultant not liable when speaker doesn’t draw bigtime

Neeting of the minds, or, in legalese, consensus ad idem. In English or Latin, if you don’t have it, there’s no contract.

That’s what High Performance Events found out to its chagrin in its recent action against Shel Jacobsen and his financial services company.

High Performance hired Jacobsen as a consultant to help put together the 1997 World Outlook Financial Conference in Prince George, B.C. The parties agreed that, for $10,000 plus tax, Jacobsen would organize and promote the affair.

Jacobsen suggested to High Performance that it obtain financial expert David Chilton, aka The Wealthy Barber, as a speaker. Jacobsen told High Performance that Chilton could draw 1,000 paying audience members.

While arranging and promoting the event, High Performance variously stated the expected audience as 500, 600, 700 and 800. Its agreement stipulated a fee of $7,500 for an anticipated audience of 700, and it booked a hall for 500.

In the event, only 214 tickets were sold, mostly out of Jacobsen’s office, because he wanted to ensure the accuracy of the resulting customer lists.

At all times, including a post-conference drink with Chilton, Jacobsen professed himself happy with the event and those involved in it. But High Performance contended that Jacobsen guaranteed attendance by 1,000 people and was liable to it for the shortfall in tickets sold.

Justice Nancy Morrison of the British Columbia Supreme Court has disagreed. There was no meeting of the minds as to precisely what Jacobsen was to provide, Justice Morrison has ruled.

The agreement was vague and there was miscommunication among the parties about who expected what.

Justice Morrison notes particularly that Jacobsen’s behaviour never suggested that he thought he was on the hook for a guaranteed audience of 1,000.

And there was no misrepresentation by Jacobsen or his company, Justice Morrison has found.

The lesson here is, don’t just get it in writing. Get it in writing that is clear and precise about what you want the independent contractor to deliver.

For more information:

High Performance Events v. Shel N. Jacobsen Financial Services, 2000 BCSC 616, Vancouver reg’y no. C981217, June 28/00.

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