The Edmond Sun


December 20, 2013

What is a third party beneficiary?

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series       of columns written by attorneys at Lester,           Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

A third party beneficiary is a person who receives some benefit of a contract to which he is not a party. If two people enter into a contract together, but the contract actually benefits another person, that third person is the third party beneficiary. If one of the parties to the contract refuses to perform, the third party beneficiary may be able to enforce the deal in court, despite the fact that she is not a party to the contract.

Consider an example. Let’s assume for a moment that my daughter’s letter to Santa Claus somehow — perhaps through the magic of Christmas — rises to the level of a contract. Now, technically, her letter to The Man is not a contract. She has simply made an offer that goes something like this: “bring me some stuff.” Even if Santa performs by bringing each item she requested, no contract arises because she has not offered to give up anything that might be of value to a big elf.

But let’s pretend that her letter to Santa, once mailed via the shelf elf, becomes a binding contractual offer that she cannot revise. In that case, she cannot legally change her mind at the last minute. She can’t decide on Christmas Eve to remove an item, say a basketball, and replace it with a doll that went out of production in 1997.

Is there a third party beneficiary to my child’s “binding” letter to Santa? Why, yes. Yes there is. There is a middle-aged elf who counted on my daughter’s “contractual offer” to The Big Man. He already made the stuff she asked for. He carefully packed it in the sleigh. While he doesn’t wish to disappoint the child, he also doesn’t want to get out of his elfjamas and trudge back to Santa’s workshop, praying for the supplies necessary to make the new request appear.

The beauty of dealing with an 8-year-old girl is that the child has not been to law school. She’s just a beggar armed with a crayon and a homemade postage stamp. In emergencies such as these, the legal definition of third party beneficiary can be changed to make an otherwise unenforceable letter as if written in stone. In this instance, claiming third party beneficiary status on behalf of the tired elf, though fraudulent, is your legal right. Ho, ho, ho, ho.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at Send questions to

Text Only
  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 17, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff seeks items for agency history project

    If you have historic pictures or artifacts related to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, the agency is asking the public to share them.
    “The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is working on a history project. If you, your family, friends or acquaintances have any old photos or artifacts related to the OCSO we would love to have them or a digital copy,” said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.

    April 16, 2014

  • oil infographic[1].png Easy on the coconut oil

    These days, it seems like coconut oil is soaking up credit for its positive affect on a wide range of health conditions. But, still developing science around the popular oil tells a little different story.
    “We know all saturated fats are not created equally, but there’s no evidence that coconut oil is better or healthier than other vegetable oils,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Easter 4e.JPG Moms Club finds Easter fun at Fountains at Canterbury

    The Fountains at Canterbury hosted members of the Moms Club of Edmond-West Tuesday morning for a Easter egg hunt and party complete with a special visit from the Easter Bunny. Residents at the Fountains at Canterbury hid several dozen eggs filled with prizes and candy for the children. The Moms Club of Edmond-West is a nonprofit, local chapter of stay-at-home moms who aim to support each other during the day.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos