A $500,000 debt incurred from three games of rock paper scissors is invalid, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled.
Edmund Mark Hooper, the unfortunate loser of the classic hand game, took out a mortgage on his house to pay off the debt — a fact that was acknowledged in a notarized contract.
But the Superior Court cancelled that mortgage in a 2017 decision, which was appealed by Michel Primeau, who beat Hooper in the game of rock paper scissors — and won the $517,000 wager.
Primeau told the court the best-of-three game took place in January 2011.
Quebec law stipulates that for a wagering contract to be valid, it must be related to activities “requiring only skill or bodily exertion on the part of the parties,” rather than to chance. Furthermore, the amount wagered must not be excessive.
Amount ruled excessive:
In the 2017 judgment, Superior Court Justice Chantal Chatelain found that rock paper scissors is not simply a game of luck.
The game, Chatelain ruled, could, “in certain precise circumstances, call upon the skill of the parties, particularly in the speed of execution, the sense of observation or the putting in place of a strategic sequence.”
But she invalidated the contract nonetheless, judging the amount wagered to be excessive.
When tasked with examining the decision, the appeals court reached a slightly different conclusion in a ruling published April 17.
While it found the game may call up a certain measure of skill, “it seems evident … that the game also involves a large part of chance, so that it does not take ‘only skill or bodily exertion on the part of the parties,'” the court concluded.
The court also upheld the lower court’s conclusion that the $517,000 wager was excessive.