After Susan’s parents neglect to serve the Marble Rye the Costanza’s brought for dinner, Frank decides, much to George’s horror, to take the Rye back. Can Frank legally do this? Who actually owns the Marble Rye?
A promise to give a gift is not binding upon the giving party. A promise to give a gift is legally understand by the rules of contracts, and without consideration there is, typically, no contract formation. Meaning, promises to give gifts are not enforceable.
However, actually giving a gift, where there is transfer of ownership, can be legally enforceable. In order for a gift to be legally binding, there must be 1) intent to give a gift, 2) delivery of a gift, and 3) acceptance of the gift. If all three of these elements are fulfilled, then ownership over the gifted item will legally transfer from one party to the other. Here, while Frank doesn’t directly make mention of the Rye as being a gift, his words and the situation heavily indicate that he intends to give the Rye to the Ross family. And, while we don’t actually see Frank hand over the Rye, he does say that he brought it in to the Ross’ apartment, indicating that he fulfilled the second prong of delivering the gift. Similarly, while we don’t see either Mr. or Mrs. Ross accept the gift, Mrs. Ross is aware that Frank did bring the Rye, indicating the third element, acceptance of the gift. Therefore, it would seem to be that Frank did legally give the Rye to the Ross’, and they now have ownership over it. As George said in the car ride home, it would be stealing for him to take it back.
But Frank makes an interesting argument for why the Rye still belongs to him. Since the Rosses did not serve or eat the Rye, it is therefore still his. Frank could be making two argument’s here. The first is that he never actually had the intention to give the Rye as a gift. Rather, he was merely sharing his Rye with the Rosses, but never intended for a transfer of ownership. This argument would be designed to nullify that he had ever meant to give a gift. Since he never intended to give a gift, and was merely just sharing his Rye with the Ross, he would retain ownership. Frank’s second argument could be that he did mean to give the Rye, but it was on the condition that it be served during dinner. Since neither Mr. or Mrs. Ross fulfilled the condition, in this case to serve it at dinner, then ownership would revert back to Frank.
Ultimately, it will be difficult to accurately determine ownership of the Rye because we don’t actually see the exchange where Frank gives over the Rye to the Rosses. We could learn a lot about Frank’s intention from any conversation he had with the Rosses at that time. But Frank’s arguments could be compelling and do have some strong merit. If he never intended it as a gift, or if it was given on certain conditions that were not met, then he very well might retain ownership. And while it may be particularly off his rocker for Frank to bring a Marble Rye to a dinner party only to take it back, it sure beats taking a couple of buses to get another one.