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The Contender
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The ruling in Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co should be in favor of Williams.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/7/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 585 times Debate No: 54242
Debate Rounds (4)
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1. Williams agreed to sign the contract with Walker-Thomas Furniture.

2. The terms of the contract were presented to Williams in a manner which she could understand (511.1.3).

3. Williams decided on her own to purchase a stereo set from Walker-Thomas Furniture (512.1.5).

4. By agreeing to the terms of the contract, Williams claimed to understand the contract.

5. If Williams did not understand the contract, she should not have signed agreed to it.

6. If premise 1, 2 and 3, then conclusion.

7. If premise 1, 4 and 5, then conclusion.

C. Walker-Thomas Furniture reserved the right to enforce the contract.

Explanation: When Williams agreed to the terms of the contract, she essentially claimed to have understood the contract. The provisions of the contract were:

1) Walker-Thomas Furniture set a price for an item that Williams agreed to pay in monthly installments (511.1.3).
2) Until Williams has completely paid off the value of the item, title of that item remained in Walker-Thomas Furniture (511.1.4).
3) If Williams were to default in the payment of any monthly installment, Walker-Thomas could repossess the item (511.1.5).
4) If Williams purchases another item from Walker-Thomas Furniture before obtaining title of any previous purchases, the payments combine into a balance (511.2.1). This provision maintains a balance on all items purchased, that still belong to Walker-Thomas, "until the balance due on all items, whenever purchased, was liquidated" (511.2.2).

Since Williams made a conscious decision to purchase the stereo set; in other words, Walker-Thomas legally sold the stereo set to Williams. These factors make the contract enforceable.

1] "The terms...printed form the item...monthly rent payment." (511.1.3)
2] "...a stereo set, raised the balance due to $678." (512.1.5)
3] "...title would remain in Walker-Thomas until...payments made equaled the stated which time appellants could take title" (511.1.4)
4] "In the event of a default...Walker-Thomas could repossess the item." (511.1.5)
5] ...each periodical installment payment...shall be inclusive of...the amount of each installment payment...under such prior leases...all [purchaser] shall be credited pro rata on all outstanding leases..." (511.2.1)
6] "The keep a balance due...until the balance due on all items...was liquidated" (511.2.2)


1) The total amount of money Williams spent on her purchase was $514.95 (511.3.3)
2) Williams was on the government welfare who received monthly payment of $218 (512.2.4)
3) Williams had other expenses such as shopping and supporting of her seven children
4) The appellee, the furniture company, was fully informed about the appellant"s financial
position (512.2.5)
5) Considering that the same terms were offered to Thorne, another customer, by the furniture
company, the contract was in a "standard form" which left no grounds for negotiations
6) One of the terms of the contract is that Williams" previous debt will be combined with the new one (511.2.1)
7) Considering the premise 6 then the appellee took an advantage of the appellant"s unsuccessful payment history (511.2.1)
C) The ruling in Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co should be in favor of Williams because the binding contract is unconscionable on the grounds of unequal bargaining power that favored only one side.

Explanation to the argument: Since the furniture company in bargaining with Williams clearly took an advantage of the appellant thus making the contract unconscionable.
First of all, the premise one states that Williams" ultimate balance was $514.95, and she had been living on the government welfare that received $218 on a monthly basis. (512.2.5) is the citation from the reading that clearly states the appellee"s full knowledge of Williams" financial expenses. Furthermore, since $218 was the only money that Mrs. Williams received, she had to allocate this amount not only to fulfill the credit she received from the furniture company for the set, but also she had to feed her seven children, do shopping and cover up other expenses. Over the top of it, the furniture company knew her poor financial challenges. Moreover, the contracts that Walker-Thomas furniture co. offered was in a standard form that meaning everyone had to sign the document. This process clearly puts the costumers under psychological pressure by intimidating take or leave message. In addition the contract"s one of the terms was to combine all the previous debt with the current amount thus psychologically pushing the client to accept the contract unfair terms.
Debate Round No. 1


This argument is an invalid and unsound one. If all of the premises were true, they still do not show that the contract was unconscionable nor do they show that there was unequal bargaining power that favored only one side. The conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises.

Premise 5 is not necessarily true. Although Thorne and Williams had similar contracts and it was likely to be a standard form contact, it may not necessarily be the case that there were no grounds for negotiations.

Premises 6 and 7 do not show that Walker-Thomas Furniture took advantage of Williams. Williams had signed similar contracts with Walker-Thomas Furniture before, it is reasonable to believe that Williams understood the terms of the contract. Williams was aware of her own situation and the terms of the contract, yet she still chose to purchase the stereo set on her own free will.

Premise 7 also is not true because Williams had been making successful payments prior to the purchase of the stereo set. It appeared as though Williams was able to continue making payments.

Walker-Thomas Furniture is not in the business of financial advisement and should not be expected to tell customers how to spend their own money; it would be a poor business practice that could potentially anger customers.

Standard form contracts are not necessarily unconscionable nor are they illegal. A "take or leave" contract actually puts less psychological pressure on the customer than other contracts because it is a simple, straightforward message. The term to combine previous debt is meant to deter customers from purchasing more items before they have obtained the title for previous purchases; it is fair because it protects Walker-Thomas and attempts to protect the customer from their own poor spending habits without necessarily telling them how to spend their own money.


The conclusion presented in the argument is valid but not sound because the premises do not necessarily support it. For the argument to be valid and sound, the conclusion should follow from the premises. But in this case we basically see that the premises are flawed. Thus Walker-Thomas Furniture Company CANNOT reserve the right to enforce the contract because it is unconscionable due to unequal bargaining power.

According to opposing side's Premise 1, Williams agreed to sign a contract but agreeing to sign a contract does not absolve the company from responsibility in imposing unfair practices.

The Premise 2 is simply invalid because there is no clear reference to Williams" understanding the terms of the contract. The citation does say that the terms were presented in printed form but it fails to mention whether Williams understood them.

I do not see how the 3rd premise could actually support the conclusion; so the appellant"s (Williams) decision to purchase the stereo set neither supports nor denies the claim. The premise 3 should simply be removed.

Actually, I do not see the difference between the premises 2 and 4, the latter is just the paraphrase of the former premise.

The premise 5 claims that the appellant should not have signed the contract due to not understanding it, let us say Williams understood the terms of the contract; however we CANNOT say that the she was aware of her being exploited.

The conclusion is made based on the invalid and/or weak premises that make the overall argument unsound. Some premises do not support the conclusion at all, whereas others can be sufficient but not necessary condition.
Debate Round No. 2


While agreeing to sign a contract does not allow the company to impose unfair practices, I would argue that the contract was fair because it only allowed the Walker-Thomas Furniture to repossess the items that they still legally owned. Had Williams completely paid off the previous items prior to making another purchase, Walker-Thomas Furniture would not be able to to repossess these items because the title would be under Williams' name.

Premise 2 is simply stating that, assuming Williams is literate, the contract was given to Williams through a medium that she was able to understand. Premise 4 is different from premise 2 because while premise 2 states that she had the opportunity to understand the contract, premise 4 states that if a person agrees to sign a contract, it logically follows that the person understands the contract.

Premise 3 exists to show that there was no foul play involved. Williams freely chose to purchase a stereo set. Stereo sets are not a necessary item for life, therefore, there is no reason she would not be able to simply decide not to purchase it.

As for premise 5, if Williams truly understood the contract, she would have been aware of whether or not she was being "exploited." If a reasonable person feels he/she is being exploited, that person would not sign the contract.


Assuming that both parties signed the contract voluntarily and as you said that Williams made several successful payments but I would still claim that the court may restrict the enforcement of the contract on the legal grounds because the way in which the contract was created, in other words its process, is morally illegitimate. According to Alan Wertheimer, unacceptable contract is the one that is not beneficial equally for both parties (487.4.3) (488.1.3). And I am positive that the terms of the contract favor only the furniture company. You may say that Williams also benefits by receiving the stereo set, but I would refute since she is on government welfare and $218 is her only source of income. And surely she had other pertinent expanses such has supporting her seven children.

Moreover, Williams was not aware that she was exploited since the company provided her with standard form of contract, knew that she would default in the future because it was clearly understood from her financial history but still had her sign the contract and making her to accept the terms that combined all her previous balance. So that Walker-Thomas Furniture could repossess both the stereo set and retain already paid money by Williams. The statements clearly indicate exploitation of one party over another. Although, Williams signed the contract the court has the power to void it if the judge finds out that one of the parties have been exploited (487.1.1)
Debate Round No. 3


According to Wertheimer, the courts seem to say that the question of whether or not the relation between the two parties is mutually advantageous is irrelevant; the important question is whether or not one party is exploiting the other (487.2.1). Williams was not being exploited because she had the choice of whether or not to purchase the stereo set. In fact, if not for the repossession term in the contract, Williams would be exploiting Walker-Thomas Furniture. As you stated, she had other pertinent expenses such as supporting her seven children and was well aware of her inability to pay. It follows that she had no intention of completely paying off her debt. This term in the contract is not exploitative, but merely a form a protection for Walker-Thomas Furniture.

The use of the words "had her sign the contract and making her accept the terms" implies that she did not sign the contract on her own free will; it has already been assumed that "both parties signed the contract voluntarily."


In support of your argument, you have stated that had Williams paid off her balance then the furniture company could not possess the stereo set. Your argument would have been sound if Walker-Thomas Furniture had not known exactly that Williams could not pay off her balance but unfortunately, the company simply decided to take an advantage of the appellant, whose default was inevitable due to being unemployed relying on the government"s assistance to support her family of seven kids and getting only $218 per month.
Furthermore, Williams" previous balance was her weakness that the furniture company took advantage of. Had Williams not agreed to the specific clause of the contract combing all future and past balance, the Walker-Thomas would have never agreed to make a contract. So Williams did not have a choice other than agreeing to the terms of the contract. By considering the above claims, I am certain that my argument would have also been upheld by the court that decided the famous maritime case known as The Port Caledonia and the Anna, where the tugmaster charges around $2000 for the assistance of a rope to the vessel that had a serious problem with moving. The court"s main argument was that the deal between the tugmaster and vessel was invalid on the grounds of unfairness and thus allowing the vessel to pay no more than approximately $400 (since the dollar is equivalent to " of the British pound sterling) (488.4.3)

Additionally, I would refute your claim stating that the stereo set is not necessary for life. In fact for Williams case it is necessary since she has seven children. And taking into consideration that she lacks money to apply for the day care service, Williams had to buy the stereo that surely helps her entertain the kids, appease her tasks and help relax. It is extremely, important that we are not talking about couple of children but there are seven, which requires Williams to generate extra efforts to raise them. Even the kindergarten and school programs can relief Williams" task only for an half day that she has to figure out spend another half. To sum up stereo set was super important device that Williams needed in raising her kids and therefore sacrificed her last penny to get it, in which the furniture company successfully used that opportunity to drain both her money and the item thus by exploiting her.
Debate Round No. 4
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