On Monday, a judge in Orange County Superior Court ruled against Kim Jin-Soo, refusing to enforce a contract to pay him over $140,000. Judge Corey Cramin ruled after a bench trial that there was no consideration for the contract, despite Kim’s argument that the contract was binding because the defendant had written it in blood (or, as the Daily Journal put it, "in the muddy ocher of his own blood").
Kim’s lawsuit alleged that he had invested $140,000 in companies run by Mr. Son, but they all went out of business. He said the two men met over drinks in 2004 to discuss the matter. After apparently quite a few drinks, and some crying by one or both men (always a good time to consider drafting up a contract), Son allegedly agreed to repay the money Kim had lost, borrowed a safety pin from a waiter and wrote out a contract using his own blood. "Sir, forgive me," Son wrote, according to a translation from the original blood-smeared Korean. "Because of my deeds, you have suffered financially. I will repay you to the best of my ability."
As attorneys will know (or recall), a contract isn’t binding unless there was "consideration," meaning (roughly, because I don’t really recall) both sides gave something in exchange for the promises by the other side. For example, if you give someone a gift, don’t expect to get your money back later if you decide you don’t like them. You would have to construe it as a loan with a promise to repay, and you need to have evidence of that up front or you can kiss that money goodbye. (Yes, genius, I loaned money to my now-ex-girlfriend. Attorneys make mistakes every day.) This is rarely a determinative issue since it doesn’t take much to constitute consideration.
It takes more than writing the contract in blood, though, Judge Cramin ruled. He found the money had been lent to the companies, not Son personally; he wasn’t required to guarantee those transactions and his tearful, bloody promise to do so was not a binding contract. "The court will refuse to enforce a gratuitous contract," the judge wrote, "even when it’s written in blood."
The opinion began with the saying, "Blood is the worst of all testimonies to the truth," which turns out to be a quote from The Anti-Christ by Friedrich Nietzsche. I’m not a Nietzsche scholar, it may surprise you to know, but this does look like a fairly relevant quote and not just the result of a law clerk Googling the word "blood." In the passage in question, Nietzsche is arguing that just because someone has been martyred for a cause doesn’t necessarily prove there is any truth in that cause:
They made signs in blood along the way that they went, and their folly taught them that the truth is proved by blood. But blood is the worst of all testimonies to the truth; blood poisoneth even the purest teaching and turneth it into madness and hatred in the heart. And when one goeth through fire for his teaching–what doth that prove? Verily, it is more when one’s teaching cometh out of one’s own burning!
Verily, it proveth also that somebody should probably get Friedrich’s car keys from him at this point, but there is probably something to what he’s saying.
Kim’s attorney said his client may appeal. "We think the blood speaks for itself," he said.