Is the Actual Santa Clause in ‘The Santa Clause’ Legally Binding?

We asked a legal expert how Tim Allen’s character might get out of his ho-ho-horrible situation
Is the Actual Santa Clause in ‘The Santa Clause’ Legally Binding?

You know the story: Twas the night before Christmas when Scott Calvin found a man dressed as Santa Claus climbing atop his roof. Thinking he was a burglar, Calvin shouted at him, causing him to slip and fall to his death. At first, he had no way of knowing the man was the real Santa Claus, but the body soon magically disappeared, leaving behind his Santa suit and a business card that read, “Santa Claus: North Pole.” And when Calvin turned the card over, he found a rather cryptic message: “If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.”

Calvin did exactly that and got into Santa’s sleigh, which was still parked on his roof. He was flown from house to house and completed Santa’s run. Next, he was taken to the North Pole, where he was informed by the elves that he was the new Santa Claus and that, by putting on the suit, he’d agreed to take on the position permanently

As it turns out, there was some very small fine print on the front of the business card that read, “In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all right to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus, in perpetuity to which some time the wearer becomes unable to do so, by either accident or design.”

Calvin eventually embraced his new position, but that was only after he was more or less forced into it thanks to him gaining a lot of weight and growing a long white beard in an inexplicably short period of time. While he protested becoming Santa, he never took legal action to get out of his predicament — but perhaps he should have. After all, he was contractually obligated to be Santa due to the obviously deceptive Santa Clause that he didn’t even know he was agreeing to. So why not hire a good lawyer to fight such deception in court?

“Essentially, Scott Calvin would be arguing that the contract isn’t valid,” explains Kevin Underhill, a partner at the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon and the author of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance: And Other Real Laws That Human Beings Actually Dreamed Up. “With a contract, you have an offer and an acceptance. The part that he read said, ‘If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.’ But that’s not really an offer, it’s just a request for him to do something. It doesn’t warn him that there’s more to it, and it certainly doesn’t say he’ll never be able to resume his normal life.” 

In other words: “There’s no reason for him to believe this is a binding agreement, so it would be fairly straightforward to argue that it was invalid.” 

As for the fine print — which is the true “Santa Clause” — Underhill says that it’s so deceptive that it also would likely be seen as invalid. “That’s the problem with fine print,” says Underhill. “To have acceptance, the person has to know what they’re agreeing to — and that’s the biggest issue here. The longer version, which he didn’t even see, says he’s now doing this for the rest of his life. There’s no way he could have known that from the shorter version. Plus, even if he’d seen the fine print, people typically don’t read the fine print and courts know that.” 

Because of this, Underhill explains that people aren’t always bound to the fine print in a contract. Especially given how unique this offer is, the contract would have to be abundantly clear, which it isn’t.

And so, Underhill believes Calvin would have a very good argument for getting himself out of the contract, but the merits of his case may not be the biggest obstacle. “The biggest question I have is, ‘Who is this contract with?’” asks Underhill. “They never say it explicitly, but essentially, it’s a contract with God. It’s not with the elves — they can’t tell Santa what to do — so he’s got to sue God to get out of this agreement.”

Therein lies the problem, even if Calvin is able to get his case heard, who is to say God will comply with the terms? And who would be an impartial judge to preside over the case? Satan? A prominent atheist? Or maybe just someone inarguably fair-minded, like Judge Judy or Steve Harvey. 

Honestly, even if the Santa Clause is a tricky, deceptive contract and is totally bullshit legally, it looks like Scott Calvin is stuck with it — at least until someone repays the favor and causes him to plunge to his death.

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