Dave Chappelle in Being Sued by His Manager for Breach of Contract

Within the documentation with regard to the verbal contracts associated with the Dave Chappelle v. Mustafa Abuelhiji court case, where manager Abuelhiji claims that Chappelle has failed to pay him promised commissions for his part in acting as Chappelle’s personal manger and give producer credit to Abuelhiji for a movie he produced which was later sold to Focus Features. The lawsuit claims that regardless of the termination of Abuelhiji he is still owed $864,500 for commissions on work he assisted Chappelle with through a 10-month period, while he was acting as Chappelle’s personal manager and has seen only $40,000 in a lump sum payment from Chappelle after Chappelle terminated Abuelhiji in 2005.

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The difficulty of the case arises with regard to contract law in that the agreement was never reduced to writing, therefore falls under the guise of a verbal contract

Simpson 490) but entailed an agreement to pay Abuelhiji 5% of Chappelle’s revenue derived from his personal appearances during Abuelhiji’s tenure as personal manager and 10% of revenue derived from any entertainment deals executed by Abuelhiji during the same time and including any future royalty payments Chappelle received from said projects. The period of employment, as personal manager which lasted 10 months was preceded by several years of other employment by Chappelle of Abuelhiji in the entertainment industry, including a well developed professional relationship where Abuelhiji served many roles, beginning in 2001 and continued until termination on an almost daily basis to assist Chappelle in many tasks with regard to his success as an entertainer. (see lawsuit at (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/1213052dave1.html) Verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce and range in difficulty depending on the situation in where the contract was made or not made depending on the rulings.

At one end of the scale there can be an express verbal promise, as when the promisor actually says ‘I promise to go to York’. More common is the case when the promise has to be deduced or ‘implied’ from conduct or less formal language, or some combination of the two, as when one says ‘Here we are then’ to the girl at the cash desk in the supermarket, pointing to the contents of a wire basket.

Simpson 490)

In this case it is clear that a promise was made and that terms were met by Abuelhiji, that would entitle him to payment by Chappelle for the work he did.

Though the agreement for Abuelhiji to act as Chappelle’s personal manager was never reduced to writing, as the lawsuit states the contract is valid in that it meets all the criteria for a legal and binding verbal contract, offer, acceptance and consideration.

Offer: The person making the offer in a verbal contract must communicate their intent to enter into a contract. A verbal contract is not considered valid if all parties do not agree to the terms of the offer. Also, verbal contracts are only valid for a specified period of time and not indefinitely.

Acceptance: A verbal contract is not valid until the offer is accepted. The acceptance of a verbal contract occurs when the person to whom the contract is offered voluntarily indicates agreement to its terms and conditions.

Consideration: In addition to an offer and acceptance, verbal contracts must contain consideration. This means that each side must give the other something of value for the agreement to be binding. In most verbal contracts, this is an exchange of money, such as a down payment. However, in some cases, it is not money but a promise that is exchanged. (see verbal contract law at (http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/contract/verbal.html)

As is detailed in the lawsuit Chappelle offered Abuelhiji terms through a several week negotiation (July-August 2004), that was finalized by Abuelhiji’s acceptance of the above terms on September 1, 2004, to begin that same day. Chappelle, informed many people in his employ and in the entertainment industry of Abuelhiji’s acceptance and resumption of the role of personal manager and even discussed the terms with several of these people, both in and out of his employ in the entertainment industry and according to the lawsuit the personal and financial records of Chappelle’s company reflect the fact that Abuelhiji accepted the terms and assumed the role of personal manger. Additionally, Abuelhiji, was paid advances on his commission in the form of $10,000 per month which amounted to a one time payment of $40,000 (mentioned earlier) when he was terminated by Chappelle on June 23, 2005. All three terms of the verbal contract have therefore been met, according to the lawsuit and Abuelhiji, thusly deserves to have such terms met by Chappelle in the form of current and future monies owed Abuelhiji.

It is clear that Abuelhiji negotiated several contracts for Chappelle that resulted in considerable real revenue for Chappelle. Though Chappelle walked away from the largest and precedent contract with Comedy Central with regard to his performance of Season Three of the Chappelle show, Abuelhiji is asking not for monies Chappelle forfeited with regard to any other contract termination, but to those real proceeds he received (and in the case of royalties will receive) with regard to contracts Abuelhiji made possible through ardent negotiations for Chappelle. This includes the producer credit for a movie Abuelhiji produced as well as the Comedy Central contract he procured for Chappelle. The sum total of the proceeds owed Abuelhiji being $864,500, not including future royalties owed Abuelhiji for projects and terms resulting from his work as personal manger.

Abuelhiji, has developed a strong case for the realization of payment by Chappelle in his suit, and the actions of Chappelle, i.e. The discussion of terms of said verbal contract with others as well as the statement by Chappelle to many that Abuelhiji was his personal manager, make the case for Chappelle difficult to rebut. Chappelle is clearly in breach of contract with Comedy Central, a staggeringly good contract that Abuelhiji made possible, but Abuelhiji has claimed only his percentage on monies that Chappelle has actually earned and will earn through the contract, up to the point where he left the contract in April 2005. This also bodes well for Abuelhiji in that it does not claim right to monies Chappelle would have earned, had he completed the additional 10 episodes of Season Three of his Comedy Central program. It is clear from the lawsuit that the monies are owed to Abuelhiji and should be paid by Chappelle barring a settlement, which is the likely scenario of the case. There is no question in my mind, or likely in the mind of those who will decide this case that there is cause by Abuelhiji for action of the enforcement of this verbal contract, despite the surrounding circumstances of Chappelle’s action of termination of Abuelhiji, and with or without a counter claim by Chappelle of his right to withhold said payment.

Works Cited

Ex-Manger to Chappelle: Pay up, *****!” The Smoking Gun Website at http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/1213052dave1.html

Verbal Contract Information” Online Lawyer Source at http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/contract/verbal.html

Simpson, a.W.B. The Rise of the Action of Assumpsit. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1987.