This is an all too common question that business attorneys receive in the state of Florida. The short answer to this question is, yes, verbal agreements can be legally binding. However, for this to be true, all of the elements of the contract have to be in place, and you can prove there is an oral agreement that binds one party to another. Elements of a Contract To have a valid contract, there have to be two things present:
- An offer
- An acceptance of the offer in exchange for consideration (for example, something with value, such as goods, services, money, etc.)
However, even when these elements are in place, there are some situations where an oral (and even a written) contract would not be enforceable. Some examples of these situations include:
- The services or goods contracted are illegal or impossible
- One of the parties in the contract is a minor
- One party did not have the mental capacity to enter into the agreement
Also, particular types of contracts must be in writing according to Florida law. These include real estate contracts, as well as any contract that isn’t able to be performed within the period of a year. Other contracts that must be put in writing to be enforceable in the courtroom in Florida include:
- Contracts for newspaper subscriptions
- Assurance, warranty or guarantee of health care
- An agreement made for the consideration of marriage
- A special promise that is made by a person to answer for the miscarriage, default or debt of someone else
Contracts that must be in writing to be enforceable are commonly referred to as The Statute of Frauds. This is an extremely old legal doctrine that was created to protect parties from fraud when entering a contract. It would prevent the court from enforcing specific types of agreements if it were not put in writing.
Proof of the Contract
The entire process is much easier when everything is put in writing. This includes enforcing the agreement in court. It is often difficult to prove that a verbal agreement occurred to the court since it is usually a situation of one party’s word against another’s. However, if you can prove you performed under the terms made in the verbal agreement, or if there is proof of payment being made, this is typically sufficient to prove the verbal contract exists. Also, if there are any witnesses to the agreement or written communications that reference it, it can serve as adequate proof.
Statute of Limitations
If you need to enforce an oral contract in court, you will have to file a suit within a period of four years. However, there are some circumstances where the suit can be filed in as little as a year after the date the agreement was made. Hiring a Florida business attorney is the best way to determine the deadline for filing a suit and enforcing the oral contract.
If you have questions about an oral contract you have entered into, or the other party is not living up to their end of the deal, contact the Law Offices of Peter M. Feaman, PA at 561-734-5552 to schedule a consultation.