This is a follow up question to this HNQ question from academia.

Suppose a student S posts an assignment for school/university/... on a freelancer website. A faculty member F sees this and agrees to provide a solution to the assignment for a price x.

Legally, imho, the contract that S and F enter is valid. S provides the price x, F provides the solution.

However, F decides to provide a solution that is uniquely identifiable, thereby knowingly sabotaging their solution.

The student S turns in the solution, F identifies it and therefore F fails S and takes disciplinary action for cheating.

F returns the money to S later and was always going to do so.

However, F and S had a contract. I assume F is breaching the contract to provide a "valid" solution by providing a solution they know will not do what the student wants it to do, even if it looks like it would.

Let's take US law for reference though I suppose it would be more or less the same in many jurisdictions.

Is F liable for the breach of contract and what possible damages could they be liable for? Would it be a realistic scenario that the student sues F for getting them thrown out of the school if that happens and gets a compensation for that? Or in other words, apart from probably beeing ethical, is it legal to place a trap for the student?

  • 5
    I would say that if the contract only says that "the product must do X (specifications for the assignment)" and nothing about it being accepted by the teacher, there is no breach of contract.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 11:03
  • 2
    @SJuan76 normally, I'd agree. However, the faculty member knows what the programm is for and that it will not do that. If I hire you to sell me a patient-database-programm and you add a trojan, technically, you sold me a working database, but I'd still sue you for the extra that I didn't want, even though I didn't specify that I don't want it. (Apart from the data breach stuff you'd get into, etc.) The faculty member is knowingly selling a product with a very serious flaw.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 11:11
  • @DonQuiKong "The faculty member is knowingly selling a product with a very serious flaw" - That's questionable. The student is buying a solution to a problem. If the provided solution solves that problem, it's not faulty. That it might also be unacceptable to/caught by a particular teacher is sort of neither here nor there. Consider the case where the teacher simply recognizes the submission because another student submitted it the term before. Did the student who sold it breach because the cheater got caught? No, because cheating is inherently risky and the buyer assumes that risk.
    – aroth
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 8:17
  • @aroth it's not that easy. The literal contract is fulfilled. sure. But imagine me beeing allergic to, say, nuts. I go into a bakery and buy a cake. The cake contains nuts. Now, if the baker who sold the cake didn't know about my nut allergy, okay, my bad, should have asked. But now imagine the baker nows about my nut allergy and decides to teach me a lesson that I should always ask if something contains nuts by not telling me. Same "literal" contract, same outcome. However, at least intuitively, completly different situation. Because fulffilling a contract also requires a certain amount of
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 8:44
  • care. The teacher might be allowed to "teach a lesson" - I don't know, hence this question - but imho, they are breaching the contract about selling the programm because they know it's faulty for the recipient.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 8:46

2 Answers 2


The contract is almost certainly void as it is against public policy. Enabling a student to cheat in not in the public interest.

  • 1
    I'm missing something there. If the contract was void ex ante, a freelancer (not the faculty member) who doesn't know about that would fulfill the contract and the student could then refuse payment saying the contract was void? (Yes, then the student would be liable for damages and pay anyways in the end, but still, sounds odd).
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 11:13
  • @DonQuiKong It would be inconsequential (or even detrimental) for the student to make that allegation. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 12:24
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    @IñakiViggers oh, absolutely. People do dumb stuff all the time though.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 12:50
  • 1
    @DonQuiKong The contract almost certainly would not be void for this reason.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:49
  • @DonQuiKong Yes. A truly innocent party could make an equity claim for unjust enrichment, however, the court would probably find it difficult to believe that someone who writes assignments for cash genuinely believes that they are used for a proper purpose.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 18:24

Is F liable for the breach of contract and what possible damages could they be liable for?

No. F would not be liable. Besides considerations of public policy, the freelance contract is hardly cognizable because S premised it on his inherent lack of fair dealing toward F: It is foreseeable that S would not have entered the freelance contract with F had S realized that the counterparty is precisely F.

Moreover, in this scenario there are three preexisting contracts between S, F, and the school: each S and F has different contract with the school, and likewise there is a student-instructor contract between S and F. By resorting to the freelancer website, S is violating the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is presumed/prerequisite in all these three preexisting contracts.

Treating the freelance contract as if it were a valid one would lead to the absurd outcome of forcing a breach of the other preexisting contracts: the student is defrauding the school's credentialing system, and the teacher would defraud its duty of transparency toward the university.

is it legal to place a trap for the student?

Yes, at least in the scenario you describe, because F did not violate any laws (hacking, breaking in, identity theft, extortion, etc.) in his efforts to evidence S's generalized lack of good faith and fair dealing.

  • 5
    This answer provides no citations and makes various questionable claims. While it may be unethical and while universities may have policies/punishments regarding plagiarism, it does not mean the freelance contract is not cognizable. And there is no student-instructor contract, that is just made up out of thin air.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:59
  • 5
    (1) Aware. Not relevant here, sorry. (2) It's not committing fraud. Show me where plagiarism has been prosecuted as fraud. Schools have internal policies, such as notices on permanent records, failing grades, expulsion. (3) The binary possibility you propose is false. No contract, no duress. If you're indeed correct on any of this, simply provide proper citation to a source other than your personal thoughts or opinions. It's as easy as that.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 15:14
  • 2
    And no, citing the Restatements doesn't count. Cite to anything showing the application of contract law to OP's described situation.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 15:16
  • 3
    @A.fm. Your presumption that good faith and fair dealing is "not relevant" to student's cheating is indefensible & troubling. Prosecution of academic plagiarism as fraud is not a prerequisite for construing academic relations as a contract. You shouldn't expect case law to spoon-feed you each and every point of a legal analysis, but here it goes: Papelino v. Albany College of Pharmacy, 633 F.3d 81, 93(2011):"an implied contract is formed when a university accepts a student for enrollment". You are just heckling for the sake of it. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:51
  • 1
    @IñakiViggers "Under New York law, an implied contract is formed when a university accepts a student for enrollment: if the student complies with the terms prescribed by the university and completes the required courses, the university must award him a degree." That's clearly a contract between university and student. Not between instructor and student which is the one that A.fm disputed.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 12:25

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