Are Oral (or verbal) Agreements Enforceable?

I was talking with someone and this person made the statement that oral agreements are not enforceable. I asked why? The answer was that it will be difficult to prove if the terms of the agreement are not written down. What do you think? What have you experiences been? Dramatic pause. The general answer is that oral or verbal agreements are enforceable. But the problem is – what are the terms of the agreement between the contracting parties? Just imagine the he said / she said back and forth. For example, Art alleges that Bob asked to purchase $300.00 worth of candles. Art delivers the candles to Bob and Art asks for $300.00. Bob looks at Art and says: “Why are you dropping off so many candles?” Art reminds Bob: “Because you told me that you wanted all of these candles.” Bob responds with: “You are out of your mind. What am I going to do with all of these candles? And, why would I spend $300.00 on candles anyway?” Now, Art is stuck with trying to find another buyer for these candles or determine if he will try to enforce the terms of this oral agreement.

Even though oral agreements are enforceable, it is recommended that the terms of an oral agreement be reduced to writing. What does it mean to reduce the oral terms to writing? It could mean creating a formal document that says “Agreement” or “Contract” across the top of the page and then the remainder of the document sets forth the quantity to be purchased; the color, model, style being purchased; the price to be paid; the delivery date; and other pertinent terms of the agreement. However, a writing can also be a series of emails or text messages between the parties. After the conversation between Art and Bob, Art could have sent Bob an email similar to this: “Bob, it was nice speaking with you. I am writing to confirm that you are interested in buying 300 candles (150 candles will be brown and 150 candles will be orange), each candle will cost $1.00, all of the candles will be delivered on March 1, 2019, and payment upon delivery. I ask that you please reply back and state that you accept these terms.” If Bob replies with an acceptance – we have a written agreement. Now, it will be a lot easier for either party to enforce the terms of this agreement if either party breaches.

This article would not be complete without the statement that the Ohio Legislature does require that some agreements be in writing to be enforceable. This is called the Statute of Frauds. The two main examples are: (1) An agreement to sell real property and (2) the sale of goods valued at $500.00 or more.

It has been my experience over the years that most contracting parties want certainty when entering into an agreement. I believe that certainty provides all parties with a bit of comfort knowing exactly what is and what is not being agreed to.

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Chris Corpus

Founding Partner at Corpus Law Inc

This article does not provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this topic or if you have other legal questions, do not hesitate to contact Chris Corpus, Esq. of Corpus Law Inc at 216-973-2475. Copyright Christopher A. Corpus 2016.