There is something in the common law of contracts called the Statute of Frauds
This requirement of the law has a long history that has developed over time. It is a requirement that some agreements must be memorialized by a writing. Here are examples of agreements that must have a writing and I am being brief as there may be exceptions:
- Promises for an interest in real estate or land
- A promise that cannot be performed in one year
- A promise that is made related to marriage
- An agreement for the sale of goods for 500 dollars or more
- Promises by persons who are (Executors male), (Executrixes female) or administrators to pay the debts related to an estate from their own money
Sometimes what many consider a writing that is not a formal contract, may actually satisfy the Statute of Frauds
This is often determined by documents that were written at the time of the agreement, or after they confirm the existence of the agreement. For example, any writing that identifies the person to be sued – not merely documents in your possession that only name you or your company- and writing that identify the subject matter of the agreement, the terms of the agreements, and a signature, may be sufficient.
- Does the memorandum or writing recite the subject matter, terms, and conditions?
- Was there legal detriment on both sides of the agreement?
- Was something of value that was promised for the bargained for exchange?
This need not be one document, but may be a series of documents taken together. It is a decision for the Court and an argument for counsel to make on your behalf.
It should be noted that a signature or party to be charged, in our modern age of emails and scanned documents, may include initials and a company letter head. It really depends on the document as a whole for indicia of reliability that the Courts will consider to memorialize an agreement.
What is best, is if the two parties have some performance on both sides of the equation
The reason for this, is that parties to an agreement generally do not perform unless there was in fact an agreement. Also if one party takes on significant legal detriment because of the agreement, then this also may be considered strong evidence to the Court that an agreement actually existed.
Sometimes an agreement may exist, and there is an ambiguous term, condition, or portion of the subject matter. In those circumstances, if counsel was available for one side and not the other, or if one party drafted the agreement and not the other, then the non-knowing party at law may find they have an advantage, and the Courts will interpret the agreement the way the non-knowing party would believe it to be so – particular if they relied upon the agreement and their actions demonstrated it as such.
I am trying to cover in very broad terms some key legal issues related to contracts, which in modern law has taken years to develop and cases unending. All facts related to contracts vary, and this should not be considered to be formal legal advice.
You should always consult a lawyer before signing any significant document that may expose you to financial harm (do not rely on friends or people you think you can trust.) Also the law can be complex in this area, and it is important to get a formal legal opinion from a qualified lawyer.
For a free consultation, contact the office of Personal Injury Attorney Manuel Moses, Esq. 236 West 26th Street Suite 303, New York, New York 10001. (212) 736-2624 Extension 11.
Nothing in this blog is intended to be formal legal advice you are urged to consult a qualified attorney for guidance of your construction accident or personal injury case.