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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Model case study


This section will take you through the process of constructing a legal argument in contract law. It provides a model for you to follow. This section is based on a case study used in a contract law exam. You can complete the case study as an exam if you wish.

Merryn case study

This is a case study exercise. Read the case and answer the task below.

Remember to apply the structure model to your answer to make sure that you cover all the relevant areas. If you wish to complete this exercise as a test, you can apply the following conditions:

  • time allocated: 1.5 hours
  • open book exam.


Merryn discovered that her car was stuck in soft sand when she returned to it after a day at the beach. She was not a member of auto assist and desperate to get home quickly. She called out to the people standing nearby that she would pay $500 to anyone who would pull her car free but no one was willing to help. While Merryn was walking back to the beach to get some help a council worker, Helen drove into the car park to check on its condition and assist any motorists bogged in a soft patch. Helen noticed Merryn’s car stranded and towed it to firm ground.

After Helen towed Merryn’s car to safety, a bystander told Helen about the $500 dollar reward promised by Merryn. Helen later approached Merryn regarding the $500 payment but Merryn refused to give it to her.


Advise Helen, giving reasons supported by case references whether she is legally entitled to the payment under the law of contract, from Merryn.

Apply the case outline to this case. Use it as the basis for constructing your answer.

Having read the case study, analyse the case in respect to the following categories. Formulate your answer using these categories.

Case outline

Identify - introduction - identifies relevant area of the law and elements of a simple contract
Rules - define and examine the laws and principles of relevant issues
  • Intention
  • Offer/Acceptance
  • Consideration
Apply -
  • apply the laws and principles to the facts — rules relating offer. Include relevant cases
  • apply the laws and principles to the facts — rules of acceptance. Include relevant cases
  • apply the laws and principles to the facts — issue consideration. Include relevant cases
Once you have finished your response using this outline, check your answer against the answer guide to see how you went and adjust your answer as needed.

This is the answer guide to the Merryn case study.

Compare your response to this guide and make sure you have covered each of these points.

Model Answer

Approach: notice how IRAC has been used to complete the case study


Merryn and Helen’s case relates to a simple contract which can be created verbally, in writing or by conduct of the parties. The elements of a simple contract include: Intention, Agreement (offer + acceptance, Consideration, Capacity, Genuine Consent, and Legality. The first three elements must be satisfied in all simple contracts and may create an apparent simple contract. Elements 4-6 may affect the validity of a contract.


On the first element of intention, the agreement could be regarded as one of business involving payment for a service. The law presumes that there is an intention to create legal relations in business agreements. (See Edwards V Skyways). If we were to argue it is a social agreement made on a beach, the rebuttal could apply as it appears Merryn is in serious trouble and the money offered for help is quite generous.


Merryn would then appear to make a valid offer however it is not clear that there has been a valid acceptance. An offer must be communicated to the offeree and acceptance must be made in reliance of the offer. It seems that Helen is unaware of Merryn’s offer before she undertakes the task of helping her with the car before she knows there is a ‘reward. Therefore no acceptance has been made at this stage. See R v Clarke.


There would also appear to be a problem with consideration. Consideration must be of a legal value and exchanged by both parties. It can be present, future but not past. It must be more than a person is already required to do by law or by contract. Since Helen tries to claim the $500 after she towed Merryn’s car the consideration is past and not valid. See Roscorla v Thomas. When Helen took this action it seems to have been part of her job as a council worker and therefore the consideration is not sufficient. See Stylk v Myrick.
There is no valid contract between Merryn and Helen.