Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In the News.

I'm in the news, again. The Los Angeles Daily Journal, the legal newspaper of record, ran a front-page article on one of my cases with a picture of yours truly on May 26, 2006. Because one of the documents in the case was written in blood, it garnered media attention. KFWB radio broadcast a story on it today. This morning, I received a call from the Korean Times (as the documents are written in Korean), which indicated a story is forthcoming.

Here are excerpts from the Daily Journal article, entitled "CONTRACT WRITTEN IN COLD BLOOD MOVES THROUGH COURTS", written by Don J. DeBenedictis:

"According to a lawsuit working its way through the Orange County Superior Court, Stephen Son used his own blood to write out a promise to repay money lent him by Jinsoo Kim. Kim sued to enforce the promise. Kim v. Son, 06CC02419 (Orange Super. Ct., filed Jan. 23, 2006).

"Literature and legend say Faust signed his deal with the devil in blood. But no one has come across a contract actually written in blood before. 'I've been reading contract cases for about 40 years, and I've never seen one,' said Joseph M. Perillo, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and the co-author and editor of leading contracts textbooks.

"'I've never heard of it in my life,' said professor Vernon V. Palmer of Tulane University School of Law, who has written on the history of contracts.

"The attorneys disagree about how and why this particular sanguinolent compact came into existence. Son, they agree, asked Kim to put money into Son's corporation in Korea, which Kim did, making at least one payment while the two were in Korea and apparently another when they were in the United States. Over the first half of 2003, Kim gave Son a total of 170 million Korean won, equivalent to $170,000.

"According to the lawsuit, Son promised that Kim would receive a 40 percent stake in Son's business plus a 10 percent ownership stake in a separate, well-capitalized company, which would provide him about $5,000 a month return on the investment.

"In fact, Kim never got any money.

"Then, in October 2004, the two Korean nationals got together in a bar somewhere, according to Son's attorney, Vladimir Khiterer of Newport Beach. There was drinking and arguing and crying about the debt and the promises, Khiterer said.

"'Write it down,' Kim told Son, according to Khiterer. So Son wrote, in pen and in Korean, 'I hereby swear that I will pay back, to the best of my ability, the estimated amount of 170,000,000 won to In Soo Kim," according to a translation obtained by Khiterer's office.


"Then, Son used his own blood to write 'Sir, forgive me. Because of my deeds, you have suffered financially. I will repay you to the best of my ability.'

"Kim's lawyer [me] accepts the translations, but he and his client disagree with Son and Khiterer about the course of events. "Mr. Son did this on his own," Richard J. Radcliffe of Reich Radcliffe [LLP] in Newport Beach said about the two short documents.

"He [Son] was not in my client's presence when he decided to solemnify [the deal] in blood," Radcliffe said.


"Radcliffe said the blood might have power with a jury, especially given that the defense has suggested in pleadings that the documents do not amount to a contract at all. Blood gives the contract greater solemnity, he said.

"It just seems ironic that when they go beyond the usual ink and laser printer" the defense would then "turn around and say, 'I didn't really mean it.'"


"In a hearing May 5, Orange County Superior Court Judge Corey S. Cramin refused to throw out the lawsuit on a demurrer, except for a cause of action for fraud [for which the court gave Kim leave to amend to add details].

"Michael R. Asimow, a contracts professor at UCLA School of Law, compared writing the contract in blood to the ancient practice of solemnifying a contract with a seal stamped in wax.


"'The debt is binding but not the new promise,' Asimow said, because there is no new consideration to support the new promise.

"Radcliffe responded that the promise in Son's handwritten documents is enforceable because Kim put off suing Son over the old debt.

"'The consideration is the forbearance,' he said. In any event, Asimow noted, 'there are a lot of funny little contract doctrines crawling around here.'"

(D. DeBenedictis, Los Angeles Daily Journal, "Contract Written in Cold Blood Moves Through Courts," May 26, 2006, p. A1.)