Contracts Class Lecture
A. Sources of law in contracts – restatement and common law (CL). More emphasis on the CL. Restatement is just a compilation of the CL.
B. Statutes – UCC Article 2 – Sales of Goods (in every jurisdiction except La). Also DTPA – deceptive trade practices act. Article 2a – Leases of Goods. Ignore the revised article 2.
C. Must know which law is controlling CL or UCC (movable goods – pencils to mobile homes and don’t forget manufactured goods). CL will deal with real estate and services. Buying good and service (carpet and installation) UCC will govern – look at essence of the transaction. UCC applies to sales of goods period NOT just sales between merchants.
II. Parol (means oral) Evidence Rule (PER) – rule is not very complicated but it is difficult trying to determine how the courts will deal with it. It is not really a evidentiary rule, it is a substantive rule of your state
A. Mitchell v. Lath – the Laths are going to sell real property to Ms. Mitchell for $8,400 and supposedly the Laths promised to remove the icehouse across the street from the land. The agreement was not in the contract. Ms. Mitchell is suing for specific performance for the removal of the icehouse. The defendant raises the PER. Only applies to prior and contemporaneous (not as likely to happen) agreements and for the most part it is prior agreements. Whether the agreement is oral or written is not the question in PER. No question that it is a final contract because it has already been performed (and it was written) so we have coverage under PER. Now what? Have a three prong test:
1. Collateral in form, something separate, disconnected but related in nature. If it is its own contract with its own consideration, you cannot attach it to the contract at hand. It has to kind of look like it is a part of the original agreement. If is truly collateral it would be its own contract. Example is the purchase of a farm implement from the same people selling the land, a separate contract. If it is a collateral contract with its own consideration the PER doesn’t apply. However, removal of the icehouse may have been a part of the same contract (part of the consideration) –just a smell test but if only one contract and not collateral must look at next two tests
2. Does the oral agreement contradict something in the contract? If you have a final written agreement you cannot contradict it (or if it does the evidence won’t be admissible, the court won’t believe it) If the agreement is complete the evidence is inadmissible and if it is a partial agreement/incomplete writing you can supplement it and the evidence will be admissible as long as it does not contradict the writing. Majority wasn’t sure whether or not it was a contradiction, so moved on to the third test. Minority said it was a contradiction because the idea that the consideration is complete. No head on contradiction.
3. Would you be expected to put it in writing? May even have a clause that states that PER won’t be allowed. Court asked if the Lath/Mitchell contract was complete relative to consideration. Doesn’t make sense for the parties not to have included it in contract if it was that important/significant and therefore won’t allow the icehouse evidence to be admitted.
B. Definition (page 586) – when two parties have made a contract and have expressed it in a writing to which they have both assented as the complete and accurate integration of that contract, evidence, whether parol or otherwise, of antecedent (prior) understandings and negotiations will not be admitted for the purpose of varying or contradicting the writing. Applies both to prior oral and written evidence (may have dropped by the wayside and a conscious decision made not to put it in the final contract).
C. When do we need to even look at the PER?
1. First you must look at whether you have a written contract? If it is an oral contract, the PER does not apply (statute of frauds may come into play).
2. Then ask is the contract final, is it a final contract, is it a contract is the real question as opposed to negotiations. Also called an integrated contract.
3. If yes to #1 and 2, the we look at PER
D. Integrated agreement is a final agreement. Completely integrated agreement tells you everything has been agreed to. A partially integrated agreement does not have everything that has been agreed to in it. NOTE: we are talking about the WRITING not the contract itself. So if not completely integrated why not allow outside evidence?
E. Restatement 213 – Effect of Integrated Agreement on Prior Agreements (PER)
1. A binding integrated agreement discharge prior agreements to the extent that it is inconsistent with them.
2. A binding completely integrated agreement discharges prior agreements to the extent that they are within its scope
3. An integrated agreement that is not binding or that is voidable and avoided does not discharged a prior agreement. But an integrated agreement, Even though not binding, may be effective to render inoperative a term, which would have been part of the agreement if it had not been integrated.
F. Masterson v. Sine – the Mastersons sell the land to the Sines with an option to repurchase in 10 years less depreciation. Bankruptcy trustee (normally options go to successors in interest, which the trustee would be) can’t get the option because the re-purchase option was personal to Mr. Masterson. The fact that the option was personal was not in the writing. Court must decide whether it will allow evidence about whether the option is personal. At the trial court the evidence of the personal nature of the option was barred, but the Supreme Court said the evidence should have been admitted because the writing/agreement was only partially integrated. Do the tests:
1. There is a written contract
2. Is the writing complete, integrated? FOUR CORNERS APPROACH: you can sometimes tell from the document itself that the document is not complete. Courts will usually at least look at the suggested agreement. If they had made this agreement would it have seemed natural to leave it out? A spectrum/continuum with the Traditional approach being more objective and asking whether reasonable parties in the circumstances would normally have put it in the writings and if “yes, reasonable parties would have included it” we don’t trust the evidence. Would have been difficult to put the language in the formalized structure of a deed, so not unreasonable to have the oral agreement and, therefore, we should allow the evidence. Both the Mitchell cases and the Masterson case utilized the Traditional/Objective Approach with divergent results. The Modern or Subjective Approach only looks at the intent of these particular parties, don’t care about the what
Court said it could approve or disapprove for any good faith reason they wanted to and so then it is a contradiction to say it is only an approval relative to price. General approval clause v. a limited approval clause. Is a limitation a contradiction? A limitation wasn’t a contradiction in the case of purchase option being limited to a family member. Don’t get to the last question in PER about whether it was a term the parties would and should have include
5. UCC Approach is more liberal about letting evidence in to facilitate trade let the evidence unless we determine that the parties would have CERTAINLY put it in the writing. Any body that would have made this agreement would have put it in the writing is the high hurdle that UCC has for not allowing the evidence. A liberal approach is in the UCC.
J. Nightclub owner that had a contract with a band for eight weeks that didn’t have any termination clause and after two weeks gave two weeks notice to the band and terminated them in week 4. Said there was an oral termination agreement. Court didn’t say it was a contradiction of the contract without a termination clause but wouldn’t allow the evidence bases on criteria that the parties would have put it in the writing.
K. Luther Williams, Jr., Inc. v Johnson – has a liquidated damages provision that states that if the contract is breached the damages are already agreed upon. He didn’t do the work because the defendants did not get their financing and defendants contend that they thought it was only an estimate and not a contract. There was a condition precedent to the contract (to obtain financing) a duty that has to occur before the duty arises and defendants contend they have an oral condition precedent. The court says the contract was not a completed contract (partially integrated) so the evidence will be allowed.
1. EXCEPTION to PER per Restatement 2-217 is that if the contract is going to be done in the future and is subject to a condition precedent, the evidence will be allowed unless the evidence contradicts the writing. It would be appealing to say we don’t have a contract at all so must allow the evidence in; however, there is a contract because there was a good faith obligation to obtain financing because this is IMPLIED IN THE CONTRACT. Contract is not complete if there is a condition precedent.
This contract has a merger/integration/entirety clause, isn’t the financing condition a contradiction to the merger clause? No, because there is no legal effect to the merger clause until the financing has occurred. Merger clause won’t keep out the condition precedent (financing, approval of the architect). What would be a contradiction to this contract? Something specific about the financing itself, will