Florida Statute of Frauds - South Florida Litigation and Arbitration Attorney

Florida Statute of Frauds - Oral Agreements - South Florida Litigation and Arbitration Attorney.

 The Florida Statute of Frauds is set forth in Section 725.01. The statute of frauds, provides in pertinent part:

No action shall be brought ... upon any agreement that is not to be performed within the space of 1 year from the making thereof ... unless the agreement or promise upon which such action shall be brought, or some note or memorandum thereof shall be in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith or by some other person by her or him thereunto lawfully authorized.

The statute of frauds was enacted to prevent fraud and the enforcement of claims based on loose verbal statements made faulty by the lapse of time, and as the Florida Supreme Court stated in Yates v. Ball, 132 Fla. 132, 181 So. 341, 344 (1937), the statute should be strictly construed.

The statute of frauds grew out of a purpose to intercept the frequency and success of actions based on nothing more than loose verbal statements or mere innuendos. To accomplish this, the statute requires that all actions based on agreements for longer than one year must depend on a written statement or memorandum, signed by the party to be charged. The statute should be strictly construed to prevent the fraud it was designed to correct, and so long as it can be made to effectuate this purpose, courts should be reluctant to take cases from its protection.

Over time, questions arose as to whether the doctrine of promissory estoppel should apply and the effect of partial and full performance of an oral contract. In Tanenbaum v. Biscayne Osteopathic Hospital, Inc., 190 So.2d 777, 779 (Fla.1966), the Florida Supreme Court rejected the application of promissory estoppel as a defense and indicated that to do so would "ingraft[ ] onto the law of this State a provision which may have the effect of nullifying the legislative will of the State as expressed by the enactment [sic] of the Statute of Frauds."

Where the oral contract is for the sale of land and the relief sought is for specific performance or other equitable relief, partial performance may remove an oral agreement from the statute of frauds. However, the doctrine of partial performance does not remove the bar of the statute of frauds for actions seeking damages based on the breach of an oral contract.

It should be evident from the above discussion that the statute of frauds is a technical legal argument, tempered by the facts of each case. If you are involved in an action involving the enforcement or breach of an oral contract, either as a plaintiff or defendant, the impact of the statute of frauds is something that needs to be considered and dealt with in the pleadings of the case, during the discovery process and at the time of trial.

Please consider the following examples of exceptions to the general rule which might impact your matter.

1. where the contract is for the sale of land and the relief sought is for specific performance, partial performance may remove the contract from the statute of frauds;

2. the doctrine of partial performance is not available in an action solely for damages at law;

3. the doctrine of partial performance does not apply to personal service contracts;

4. full performance of an oral agreement may remove the agreement from the statute of frauds if the agreement is capable of being performed within a year and was, in fact, performed within one year; and

5. an oral renewal of an oral one-year employment agreement, which commenced on the day the renewal was made, was not within the statute of frauds);

Another issue that has to be considered and dealt with during the course of a proceeding is the intent of the parties. As noted in Yates, the Florida Supreme Court noted that "to make a parol contract void, it must be apparent that it was the understanding of the parties that it was not to be performed within a year from the time it was made ." Yates, 181 So. at 341. Thus, when an oral contract is for an indefinite period, the court must determine whether it was the intent of the parties that the contract be fully performed within one year.

When no time is agreed on for the complete performance of the contract, if from the object to be accomplished by it and the surrounding circumstances, it clearly appears that the parties intended that it should extend for a longer period than a year, it is within the statute of frauds, though it cannot be said that there is any impossibility preventing its performance within a year. Therefore, when an agreement is susceptible of performance within a year, and the evidence shows that it was expected to have been performed within that time, it is not barred by the statute of frauds.

Please keep in mind that the above information is being provided for educational purposes only. It is not designed to be complete in all material respects. Thus, it should not be relied upon as legal advice.  If you have any questions concerning this post, you should contract a qualified professional.