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Do Oral Contracts Carry Any Weight?

Jul 06 2016

Written by Jason C. Henbest, Esq. and Brittany Saxton

Handshakes and oral promises are time-honored symbols of assurance, given by one party to another as a means of entering into a contract.  A contract is nothing more than a promise that the law will enforce.  However, legal contracts seem much more complicated than a handshake or merely giving ‘your word.’  Many people envision a legal contract to be stacks of paperwork in all-caps and fine print font, between two companies with transactional lawyers that have experience negotiating business deals.  In an era when contracts are easily associated with business transactions, do oral promises really carry any weight?

The typical answer is: it depends.  If both parties in the oral contract are happy with the terms and uphold their end of the bargain, there is no need to go to court.  But the issue is that two people can interpret the same terms in various different ways that don’t exactly match up.  Thus, an oral contract commonly falls apart when it comes to interpreting the details of the agreement.  In this instance, it depends on whether or not oral contracts can be proven in court.  But what do you have to prove, exactly? 

Ultimately, the burden is on you to prove that you upheld your end of the bargain.  This can be done by putting your words into immediate action.  It also helps to have a third party witness the handshake.  Then, an oral contract followed by a handshake to close the deal may carry some weight, giving commonplace contracts the potential to be upheld in court.

Overall, even though your oral contracts may carry some weight, it helps to have the major terms and important details of the transaction in writing.  For further assistance on contract matters, contact your attorney for personalized legal service, today.

Manahawkin and Stafford Township Attorney| Oral Contracts | Commercial-Business Law