Someone makes me a contract offer for, say, a health insurance plan. They set a deadline by which I must accept or reject the offer.

I inquire as to the full terms of the offer. They say that the terms are not available yet, but that they will be made available sometime before the deadline. I provisionally accept the offer based on a summary of the terms, since I can change my mind up until the deadline.

How far in advance of the deadline do the terms have to be made available for them to be part of the contract? If they are published 5 minutes before the deadline to withdraw, and they are 100 pages long, it seems a stretch to say that I had notice and could have inquired as to the terms. I did inquire and was denied meaningful access to them. But a 100 page document could take many hours to review, and some people read slowly, and lawyers are not generally kept on call for immediate opinions. So is one hour enough? Or one day? Even a very short document released one second before the deadline isn't really available to read.


1 Answer 1


The law generally imposes no requirement to provide an offeree time to review contract language before agreeing to it.

The parties are at all times free to negotiate the length of time the offer will remain open. If either side demands more or less time than the other is willing to accept, they are free to refuse the contract.

Agreeing to the contract despite the narrow window results in a valid contact nonetheless.

There are likely consumer-protection laws providing the offeree greater protection in specific contexts, but I don't know of any that would apply to an offer for health insurance coverage.

  • Can a contract then have totally secret terms?
    – interfect
    Nov 15, 2023 at 21:25
  • law.stackexchange.com/a/27962 would suggest not. But it seems to conflict with the idea that terms can apply without being available for review.
    – interfect
    Nov 15, 2023 at 21:35
  • Secret to whom? The parties may agree to keep the terms of their contract secret from third parties, but I can't imagine how a one party could have a contract term that is secret from the other.
    – bdb484
    Nov 15, 2023 at 23:03
  • 2
    @bdb484: A key element of a contract is that there must be a meeting of the minds. If a party wants to rescind a contract because there was no meeting of the minds, that party would have the burden of proving that there could not have plausibly been a meeting of the minds, and the party may have to pay expenses associated with unwinding a contract, but the notion of contract terms that are kept secret from one of the parties woul seem fundamentally incompatible with the "meeting of the minds" requirement.
    – supercat
    Nov 16, 2023 at 4:47
  • While that is ostensibly true, it's also true that the vast majority of contracts executed today are clickwrap EULAs, in which it is very obvious that no meaningful meeting of the minds takes place. (It can't possibly, when ~nobody has ever read them.) I don't really know how courts deal with that. In those cases the terms aren't secret, though, we just know as a practical matter that nobody reads them, nor would understand them if they did, nor has a meaningful opportunity to refuse them in many cases. Nov 16, 2023 at 7:19

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