Updated November 26, 2020:

What Can I Sue for With a Verbal Contract Violation?

With an oral contract, you can sue for breach of contract just as you would with a written contract. There's a common misconception that all contracts must be in writing to be valid. Writing out a contract is a good idea, mainly because you will have proof that the contract exists. You could also record the contract on video, as this may be considered just as good as writing in court cases.

When it comes to state law, few subjects require a written contract. For instance, in Illinois, real estate contracts must be in writing as well as anything that must occur within a year. This is due to the Statute of Frauds, which governs five categories:

  • Contracts that pertain to selling a land interest.
  • Contracts that involve a performance that lasts longer than one year.
  • Contracts that assume responsibility for someone else's debts.
  • Contracts that deal with the sale of goods worth more than $500.
  • Contracts that contain promises made by administrators or executors of an estate.

However, you can create, amend, or change a contract's terms nonverbally simply via your conduct. For example, if you agree to give a business 100 items for a certain price each month but end up accepting less money over time, you may waive your claim to the original sum without ever stating so outright, because you continued to deliver the number of items and accepted the lesser payment.

Can I Sue for Breach of Verbal Contract?

Yes, you can sue for breach of verbal contract even if a handshake agreement didn't occur. If one party accepted another party's services, then the parties most likely reached an enforceable agreement. As long as one party received the other's services, the receiving party benefited and should pay the party that delivered the service.

Even though verbal contracts are as valid as written ones are, oral contracts are more difficult to prove. A handshake doesn't have legal significance, but having a witness can strengthen your case. One element that can strengthen the argument is when one of the parties has fully performed its agreed-upon service.

Breach of Oral Contract in Florida

In Florida, oral contracts are enforceable. To prove a breach of oral contract, a plaintiff must state facts that show that both parties agreed to a partnership and had no uncertainties. The oral contract can undergo the same scrutiny as written contracts, including offer, acceptance, consideration, and speculation of the terms. Also, the party who asserts the oral contract must prove that it exists by providing evidence.

To claim an oral contract breach, the afflicted party must show three elements:

  • A valid contract formed.
  • A material breach occurred.
  • Damages were suffered.

Special Issues in Breach of Oral Contract Cases

In the case of Crozier v. Sauers, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court weighed in on what happens when a dispute occurs between family and friends in regard to oral contracts.

The plaintiff and his wife were friends of Sauers, the defendant. The plaintiff stated that Sauers asked him for a $180,000 loan to expand the defendant's automotive glass company. Sauers stated that the loan's purpose was to help him purchase an existing auto glass company as well as to provide a down payment on two other corporate buildings.

The exhibits and record at the trial showed that the plaintiff wrote four checks to T&M Corp., which was the name of the defendant's company. The defendant deposited the checks into the corporate account and used the account to purchase the company but not the other two buildings. The defendant testified that the rest of the money went toward corporate expenses, but the plaintiff didn't argue or provide contrary evidence.

In response, the plaintiff alleged, according to an oral agreement, the defendant agreed to be liable for the loan if the company couldn't repay it. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff because the defendant was liable for the outstanding loan balance. There was no breach of an oral contract because the funds went toward corporate purposes.

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