Next time you think about offering someone $1 million for any reason, even in jest, consider the cautionary tale of R&B singer Ryan Leslie.
You see, after his laptop containing several unreleased songs was stolen in Germany, Leslie hopped on YouTube to offer a $20,000 reward to anyone who could return it.
Later, perhaps feeling like $20,000 wasn’t enough to sway laptop thieves into honesty, Leslie went onto Twitter to offer a surprisingly unreasonable reward of $1 million. Good thing that all social media posts aren’t permanent and can’t be used as evidence in a legal hearing. O, wait, that doesn’t sound right.
Like a sleazy moth to a flame, auto repair shop owner Armin Augstein contacted Leslie after “finding” the laptop, which I assume he stumbled upon just after leaving church while on his way to volunteer at an orphanage.
There aren’t many details on how the exchange went down, but I like to imagine that Leslie said something like, “Thanks man, you are a lifesaver,” then extended his hand for a hearty handshake to which Augstein reciprocated and then said, “So, where is my million dollars?”
The problem of course was that Leslie was just kidding when he offered that $1 million reward. Augstein didn’t get the joke. Not taking Leslie’s proverbial psyche lying down, Augstein filed a lawsuit demanding the reward.
Shockingly or maybe not shockingly (my knowledge of law doesn’t extend past “Night Court”) the court ordered Leslie to pay out the million-dollar reward. New York federal judge Howard Baer wrote:
“In addition, his videos and other commentary cannot be reasonably understood as an invitation to negotiate because, similarly, Leslie was not soliciting help in finding his property, but the actual return itself. Leslie also relies on the fact that the offer was conveyed over YouTube (a website where many advertisements and promotional videos are shared, along with any number of other types of video) to undermine the legitimacy of the offer. Def’s Opp’n 14–15. I do not find this reasoning persuasive.”
In other words, if you tell someone you are going to offer a million clams for returning something, you better mean it.
There you have it, a lesson learned. Don’t ever promise anyone anything ever while on the Internet.
In other news, the next person to bring me a delicious waffle can have my collection of “Night Court” DVDs.