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Lawyer's Edge
by Rodney S. Woodbury, Esq.
Woodbury, Morris & Brown
Can I Be Held To My Word?
Has anyone ever broken a promise to you? If that
promise amounted to a contract, you may have rights to
enforce it, including the right to compel performance or
recover money damages for breach.
Some people are surprised to learn that, with few
exceptions, a contract does not have to be in writing to be
valid and enforceable. Rather, a contract is any legally
enforceable agreement, including a verbal agreement. A
legally enforceable contract contains three basic
components: (1) an offer; (2) acceptance of the offer; and
(3) consideration.
A number of rules govern what constitutes a valid offer
and acceptance, but for the most part, they are what you
would expect them to be. An offer is a manifestation of one
person’s intent to enter into a contract, and an acceptance
is the manifestation of the other person’s intent to enter the
contract on the terms offered.
Consideration is a legal term of art. Basically, it is the
idea that each party to the contract must give something up
as part of the bargained-for exchange. A promise to do
something for free, for instance, is not enforceable because
there is no consideration – that is, the other party is not
giving anything up as part of the exchange. This is true
regardless of whether the agreement is in writing.
However, not all agreements supported by an offer,
acceptance, and consideration will be enforceable.
Occasionally parties will be excused from performance, such
as when they lack legal capacity to enter into an agreement,
when they do so under duress or relying on material
misrepresentations, or when the contract’s terms are
unconscionable. Additionally, some contracts by their nature
must be in writing to be enforceable, such as real estate
sales contracts.
For more information on what your rights and
responsibilities are in connection with any agreement that
you have made, or are contemplating making, contact an
experienced attorney.
Rod Woodbury can be reached at 933-0777 or by e-
mail at rwoodbury@wmb-law.net.
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