On January 24, 1994, Frederick Hantske Jr. was telephoned at

On January 24, 1994, Frederick Hantske Jr. was telephoned at home by Paul Kallina, an employee of Brandenburger & Davis, Inc. Kallina told Hantske that he could possibly be an heir to an estate and arranged a meeting with him on the following day.

Kallina met with Hantske at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, for one and one-half hours. Kallina explained that his firm searched official records for missing heirs. Kallina stated that the firm believed that Hantske was an heir to a certain estate and that the firm would undertake to prove Hantske's claim and would "fight for" Hantske to receive his inheritance. Kallina then presented a contract to Hantske under which Brandenburger & Davis would receive one-fourth of the inheritance received by Hantske in exchange for locating Hantske, notifying him, and proving his interests. If Hantske did not inherit anything, he would owe the firm nothing. Kallina estimated that Hantske's interest in the estate was approximately $30,000 and that the firm would receive a fee of $7,500. Hantske signed the written agreement that same day.

Hantske then went to court seeking to have the contract voided arguing that under the Virginia Home Solicitation Sales Act of 1970 he had a right to cancel the contract after it was signed. The court found that the agreement between Hantske and Brandenburger & Davis fit the definition of a sale under the Virginia Act. Home solicitation statutes of this type normally provide a three-day "cooling off' time period in which the homeowner has an unwaivable right to cancel the sale. Because the agreement signed by Hantske did not include a right to cancel, the court found that it was unenforceable under the Act.

Should a homeowner such as Hanske be permitted to take advantage of information provided to him by a seller that he would not have easily learned about on his own? Should homeowners be allowed to cancel a signed agreement and retain the financial results? Is it ethical and fair to keep the benefits, cancel the agreement, and not pay for services and information provided? What interests is the Virginia Home Solicitation Sales Act trying to protect?


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