The Instigator
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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: 5/11/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 716 times Debate No: 54488
Debate Rounds (4)
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Pro Round 1

1.The language in the contract, "Walker Thomas "could" repossess the item" (511.1.5)
2.Appellant had been making her payments on previously purchased items. The balance at hand before the purchase of the stereo, $164 (512.2.2)
3.The ambiguous language in the contract(511.2.2)
4.The contract was for profit (512.3.4)
5.Thus, the contract is unconscionable. Williams is relieved of the contract.

Williams purchased the stereo with a balance of $164 on previously purchased items. It can be said that Williams was in good standing with Walker "Thomas Furniture Co. If Williams had not been in good standing with the company, contracting with the appellant for additional item(s) is bad business on behalf of the company.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals found that the contract was faulty, however, could not grant appellant relief. While there has never been a ruling within the district on unconsciousability, setting a precedent on the topic is not beyond the court"s jurisdiction.


1)As per the contract, the title owners of purchased items shall remain with Walker-Thomas until total balance was paid off. (511.1.4)
2)Williams still had an outstanding balance while the new debt was incurred; those items were not paid off (title of ownership never moved) leaving Williams liable for complete repossession. (511.2.4)
3)Williams defaulted on payments, Walker-Thomas as per the contract sought to repossess all items. (511.3.4)
4)Since Williams never fully paid off any balances, and was the sole purpose for inflicting more debt upon herself, she was never a principle owner. Therefore Walker-Thomas righteously seeks total repossession.

Walker-Thomas is just for seeking full repossession, as per the contract signed by Williams they acknowledge that title of principle owner does not shift until a total balance is paid off. Williams, who already had an outstanding balance voluntarily engaged in a second exchange, leaving her as the independent variable to increasing her balance. As for the client being in good standing with the company that"s why this is not a bad business deal on behalf of Walker-Thomas, although they were aware of her responsibilities at home and raising seven children, at the end of the day she was making her monthly payments. If Williams could not keep up with the new payments, it is the negligence on her part to distinguish necessity from non-necessity, which I feel we can all agree that buying a stereo is a non-necessity when you are raising seven children on government assistance. Can you please define how the contract is unconscionable in the context of Williams? Walker-Thomas who engaged in the second deal because as of that point Williams was in good standing with the furniture company. Although Walker-Thomas was aware of Williams financial situation that does not make this a bad deal because as far as they knew because of previous relations, Williams would continue her payments as she did in the past. If she could not handle the payments and engaged in this second contract knowingly and voluntarily increasing her balance, this is negligence to her financial stability.
Debate Round No. 1


Pro Round 2

An unconscionable contract is one that is so one-sided that it is unfair to one party and therefore unenforceable under law. It is a type of contract that leaves one party with no real, meaningful choice, usually due to major differences in bargaining power between the parties.*

The issue of Williams 7 children is neither here nor there in the contention of the contract. However, if you want to make this one highlight in the debate, let us look at all her circumstances.

1. Walker-Thomas was aware that she had 7 children.
2. Walker-Thomas was aware of the government stipend she received monthly.

Walker-Thomas was aware of these circumstances and still proceeded to contract with her. It appears that Walker-Thomas contracted with her expecting her to default so that they can repossess all items, which made the contract a for profit contract. Inasmuch they already received a substantial about of money from her. (footnote 1. page 513). These circumstances alone show that Walker-Thomas contract is unfair. Furthermore, the text does not evidence if they explained the ambiguous language of the contract. Given this, it shows that Walker-Thomas had a great degree of bargaining power.



Your argument contradicts in the fact that in round one of the debate you stated that Williams had to be in the view of good standing with Walker-Thomas. Now you state that Walker-Thomas took the deal in an anticipation of default (which would not be good standing). Those two conditions are mutually exclusive and cannot both be possible at the same time. Also, please note that not only was Williams never a principle owner of the first contract she was under as there, but she was the direct cause of why more debt was incurred upon her. The "substantial" amount that you state in round two was not the total amount, which under her contract was required for the title of ownership to be transferred over.
As far as the definition of an unconscionable contract, let"s apply it to the facts of this case. As far as Williams having "no real, meaningful choice" she was the sole purpose of the choice, she decided to take on more debt, this was accepted by Walker-Thomas because she was in good faith making the monthly payment. What do you mean by the contention of the contract? Are these contracts that always have a similar result? As far as the contract being unfair and as you claim she appeared to be fine paying a "substantial amount" on the first contract, why is the first contract viewed as fair and the second as unfair? The only difference between contract one and two is an action caused by Williams defaulting on her payments. Please keep in mind that this type of business constantly deals with renting and financing situations as these, and that all contracts given are the same, just as the first and second contracts are the same. The choice to incur more debt for a non-necessity item was at the discretion of Williams, because of past relations Walker-Thomas did not see this as a bad business deal and assumed Williams would continue the monthly installments as usual. So if contract one worked fine, who is the cause of contract two being questionable? If it was really a concern with the contract itself wouldn"t there be many complaints for more customers as many of them are receiving the same contracts? To finalize, as per your last statement that Walker-Thomas had a great degree of bargaining power, are you referring to bargaining power as leverage? If so, what leverage did they have over Williams? This must be a condition that applies to both the first and second purchases as they were under the same contract.
Debate Round No. 2


Pro Round 3

I think you are reaching beyond the point. There was never two different contracts, the contract at hand is the standard contacted used in all business transactions. As too the issue of contradiction, as stated, when she contracted with the previous items Walker-Thomas would have sought to replevy these item(s) if she defaulted. Provide the evidence of "more debt". Why sought to replevy all items now, when the contract states "could repossess"? Please keep in mind that only the second contract listed her government assistance of $218, in which she ""clothe, feed and supported herself on this amount" (512.2.6). This is evidence of unequal bargaining power. While Williams may have been the sole purpose of the choice, did she understand the contract or did an employee of Walker-Williams explain the ambiguity in this section of the contract? This is a question we are unsure of. Yes, Williams had a "meaningful choice", because the stereo was not a necessity; however the meaningful choice is based on "major differences in bargaining power between the parties". Here the bargaining power is that the contract provided no equal footing. Please provide where in the contract there is equal bargaining power.


First let me clarify, when I refer to "Contract 1" vs "Contract 2" I am referring to first purchase from Walker-Thomas vs. the second purchase. I believe comparing the two are crucial in examining this case because under purchase one there were no problems with the contract and problems with the contract from Williams do not arise until purchase two. As for providing the evidence of Williams incurring more debt upon herself, please refer to (512.2) "The record reveals that prior to the last purchase appellant had reduced the balance in her account to $164. The last purchase, a stereo set, raised the balance due to $678". As far as the term "debt" that may not be a term used by the business to a client that still owes money, they may, as in this case use the term balance. I feel we can all agree that when an individual has a balance owed to a business greater than zero they are indebted to the business for that amount. As for the ambiguity in the contract stating "could repossess" I believe this is not a unique sense of wording and is very common not only in contracts but in all law. Contracts and law need to have some form of ambiguity because no written words can capture every single scenario that will happen in legal conflicts. So now let"s examine the term "could repossess", in order for Walker-Thomas to even be eligible to exercise this option, an action has to occur from Williams to activate it, think of "could repossess" similar to "can be subject to arrest" in a criminal action rather than a civil action. "could repossess" and "can be subject to arrest" gives the enforces the option to exercise, just as there will be scenarios where a cop has to use discretion on whether to make an arrest or not, Walker-Thomas uses discretion on whether to repossess or not. Although Walker-Thomas was aware of Williams financial situation she was a good will customer, then upon her default Walker-Thomas used discretion of the circumstances to exercise the right to repossess, just as a police officer upon their discretion can exercise their right to arrest someone. As far as unequal bargaining power and as you state although Williams may have been the sole purpose of the choice, she may not have understood. The question lies who is responsible for these individual choices that we make? Does responsibility come with unequal bargaining power? Why throughout the first purchase there was no claim of whether Williams understood the contract or not? She understood how the payments were to be made and throughout the first purchase she was making them accordingly, why all of a sudden throughout a complete unnecessary purchase for a woman on government assistance supporting seven kids does this become a contractual problem? As I stated in round two, If this was a contractual problem there would be more instances or problems of "unfairness" to Williams occurring. This was instead an individual problem of negligence of necessity vs. non necessity. Lastly, can you please clarify on what you mean by "the contract provided no equal footing". The equal bargaining power is that to a woman in a financial position like Williams, she was eligible to finance the items and to make monthly payments. This is a positive for individuals whom cannot make payments for everything upfront.
Debate Round No. 3


Pro Round 4

I am not disputing two contracts. They are one in the same. As to your terminology of debt and balance let us be care how we use this two words, while they may appear interchangeable they are not. A balance is an amount that is remained over of equal footing. Therefore Williams was in good standing to Walker-Thomas. To be in debt which we have commonly use the term, is to fail to maintain the necessary payment of something. Key word here being "failed" Therefore, Williams did not have a "debt", she had a balance, in which she was indebted (financial obligation) to. The ambiguity in the contract is stated on ( 511.2.). It was though Walker-Thomas, classified all purchasers as "debtor(s)", (once again anticipating for all their purchasers to go into default), instead of indebtors, having a financial obligation . Focusing on the language "could repossess" gives you an option or better yet the possibility to do something, thus making it subjective, this brings to light the "unconscionable" contract. You provided me with an example of a cop making an arrest, as stated by you ""can be subject to arrest". The operative word here is "can" which is objective term. Proceeding with your example of "can be subject to arrest", perhaps this is why NYS stop and frisk policy is so controversial; every Latino and Black American male fits this objective term.
As business invitee, Walker-Thomas had the duty of explaining the terms of the contract to Williams. If would be like purchasing a phone unaware of the terms of a two year contract. You cannot walk into a store and just sign a contract without being aware of the plan you are obliging to.


I still do not understand what you mean by the term "equal footing", you have also stated the fact what would require an individual to be indebted to someone else. If you take how you defined the difference between a balance and debt, Williams would certainly fall under debt as shortly after the second exchange she entered in she defaulted and stopped making payments. As for the term "Debtors" as you state "once again anticipating for all their purchasers to go into default" is absurd, the term "debtor" is used in finance contracts such as loans and finances such as scenarios like this to distinguish the receiving party from the lending party. This term is in no way a condescending term used in a contract to presume default or inability to pay back. When I used to the term "can be subject to arrest" I used it in the context that the law has to be written that way because depending on the circumstance there can be a scenario where the officer would warrant an arrest and there would be a scenario where the officer would not want to arrest the person. That phrase allows for the discretion to be possible, for instance, in this case "could be repossessed" if a client could not afford the monthly payments assigned to their exchange, instead of stopping payments in full, reasoned with Thomas-Walker and asked either for the monthly payments to be lowered or given a minor grace period because of good faith, they have the discretion to use whether to exercise or not exercise repossession under the contract. When an individual enters into a contract asking to be given financial opportunity such as financing, we as a society grant, even understand that the counter parties of these contracts are able to give the financial opportunity because of the leverage of option in this case, "could repossess". If all business contracts such as the one given to Williams by Thomas-Walker were not ambiguous at all and in fact put in complete specific layman terms, there would be situations where an individual can default and get away with it. When I say get away with it I mean stop paying and still possess the items simultaneously that, in my opinion will be opening up scenarios of "unfairness". As for your example about entering a two year contract with a phone company, yes most people are aware of what it means to enter a two year agreement. However there are underlying principles in those contracts that are not full elaborated to an individual instead they may be given to you in a familiar form such as a large document in fine print over the computer with a small box to check at the end acknowledging that you agree to the terms. These fine print underlying principles have many different conditions to the contract that individuals such as myself were never briefed on by my cell phone service provider.
Debate Round No. 4
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