After Jerry finds out that The Drake’s wedding is off, and Jerry really can go to the Super Bowl, he calls up Tim Whatley to see if he can get the tickets back that he had given to the dentist as a gift. Does Jerry have any legal entitlement to the tickets once he’s given them to Tim? Does he have, as George puts it, a grace period to reclaim them? Who owns the Super Bowl tickets?
As we noted in “The Puffy Shirt,” a contract needs consideration for it to be legally binding. A promise to do something that does not include consideration will not be legally enforceable. A promise to give a gift is no exception to this rule. If Jerry had only promised to give Tim Whatley the Super Bowl tickets then he would absolutely have a grace period to DeGift them. In fact, Jerry would be under no legal obligation to give Dr. Whatley the tickets at all because a promise to give a gift is considered to be an unenforceable gratuitous gift. Therefore, George is right! Jerry would still own the Super Bowl tickets and get to go hobnobbing with D’s and E’s.
However, in this particular case, there are three major problems for Jerry. The first is that Tim Whately has already made arrangements to go the Big Game. While not explicitly listed in the episode, George does note that “in order to use these, I gotta spend like fifteen-hundred bucks” to pay for airfare and hotels. So it is likely that our favorite dentist already had spent a significant amount of money to make use of the tickets. Legally speaking, Tim Whatley has relied on Jerry’s promise to give him the Super Bowl tickets to his financial detriment, and it would be unfair to say that Jerry still owns the tickets. This is the legal principle of promissory estoppel – where a court can make an award to one party if that party has relied on another party’s promise to their detriment (once again, see “The Puffy Shirt“). Therefore, a court would likely award Tim Whatley the Super Bowl tickets.
Another issue that Jerry would run into is that he has already handed over the tickets to Tim Whatley. While a promise to give a gift would be governed by the laws of contracts and the necessity of consideration, once a gift has been given over and delivered to a party then ownership has transferred to the person now in possession of the gift. Under these circumstances, despite what George says, there is no grace period to ask for a gift back. So when Jerry tells Newman later in the episode, “that’s my ticket,” a court would certainly rule in favor of NEWMAN!
Thirdly, Dr. Whatley actually does offer Jerry some consideration in exchange for the tickets when he offers to take Jerry to Mendy’s. But Jerry does refuse the offer, so a court would likely not say that Jerry ever accepted Whatley’s consideration and created a binding contract. Similarly, Whatley’s ReGifting of the label maker later in the episode would not constitute consideration for the tickets, as it was an independent gift made to Jerry and not connected to the Super Bowl transaction. But, as noted above, since Jerry had already delivered the tickets to Dr. Whatley, it seems all but certain that the dentist is now the owner of the tickets.
But our analysis does not end there, because Tim Whatley makes the big error of offering one of his two tickets to both Newman and Elaine! And then, on top of all that, he then offers it back to Jerry after he finds out that Elaine isn’t really into the whole Super Bowl sex romp. Between Jerry, Newman, and Elaine, who has the best legal argument to make for Dr. Whatley’s other ticket?
Well, as mentioned above, a promise to give a gift demands consideration – something of value that the promisor receives in return from the promisee in order to turn a promise into a legally binding contract. There is no indication that Newman gave Tim Whatley anything in return for the ticket, and while Elaine does give Tim a “trip upstairs” in exchange for being alone with him for the weekend, courts will typically void such Mae West style contracts as against public policy. Therefore, neither Elaine nor Newman would have a reasonable argument that Dr. Whatley’s promise to give either of them a Super Bowl ticket is legally enforceable. However, we do see Tim actually hand Jerry the ticket, and therefore, as noted above, since the ticket was actually delivered to Jerry he would ultimately regain ownership of the ticket.
There is no grace period to ask for gifts back, but generally a promise to give a gift is not legally enforceable. Jerry and Newman eventually get to go to the Super Bowl. But in the initial DeGifting ReGifting scandal, Dr. Whatley is the true owner of the Super Bowl tickets.
Next year though, Jerry could have saved everybody some time and just delivered the ticket directly to NEWMAN!