Dustin Kolodziej of the San Antonio area said attorney James Mason offered in a “Dateline NBC” interview he would pay $1 million to anyone who could prove him wrong in claiming his client, Nelson Serrano, could have made it from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to a La Quinta Inn three miles away in less than 28 minutes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday.
“I challenge anybody to show me. I’ll pay them $1 million if they can do it,” Mason told the interview.
Serrano was convicted of killing four people from Bartow, Fla., in 1997 and the prosecution’s case hinged on his ability to reach the inn in the time frame.
Kolodziej said he got off a plane at the airport, took his car from the parking garage and made it to the inn in just 19 minutes, capturing the whole experience on a camcorder. However, Mason refused to pay the $1 million reward, claiming the offer was a figure of speech.
Kolodziej’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, alleges breach of contract, claiming Mason’s statements on “Dateline” constituted a verbal contract.
“What this case boils down to is would a reasonable person believe that this is legitimate,” said David George, a lawyer for Kolodziej. “Think about the context. He’s on ‘Dateline,’ national TV, and his client is on death row. That is not a joking context.”
Mason is unmoved:
“When it’s over, somebody or some group of people out there are going to have to face the consequences of filing such a false, stupid lawsuit.”
I don’t have all the facts, but my initial reaction is that Mason should not be so sure. The case against the student is not a slam dunk. After all, Mason was on national television (Dateline NBC) defending am murder case. The language of the offer at least supports a plausible (though also not certain) case that the offer was being made to the general public and not just the prosecutors (as Mason has claimed):
And from there to be on the videotape in 28 minutes? Not possible. Not possible. I challenge anybody to show me, and guess what? Did they bring in any evidence to say that somebody made that route, did so? State’s burden of proof. If they can do it, I’ll challenge ‘em. I’ll pay them a million dollars if they can do it.”
HT: Nathan Jones.
UPDATE: I see that Concurring Opinions has been on this from the start! Sorry guys. Dave Hoffman wrote way back when the complaint was filed that the case was unlikely to survive summary judgment. Lawrence Cunningham, consistent with what I note above, that this case is a “closer call” and seems less like the Harriet Jet Pepsi Points case than it does like others in which courts have found valid contractual obligations to exist.