Businesses and self-employed professionals often require contracts to successfully do business. Contracts clarify the obligations that parties have to one another. They also help make business arrangements enforceable if either party defaults in some way. The more complex an agreement is, the more important it is to outline specific terms in a written contract so that there won’t be any confusion about those terms later.
Provided that both parties sign and date the contract, either could enforce the contract in court later. However, when an agreement is simple and straightforward, people may feel comfortable agreeing orally to certain terms with a contractor, employee or business. Yet, the other party to such an agreement might default, failing to render payment or provide services. Do the Oklahoma civil courts uphold oral or verbal contracts?
Most oral agreements are enforceable
The good news for someone embroiled in a business dispute related to a verbal or oral contract is that Oklahoma does allow the enforcement of such arrangements. The bad news is that it can be very difficult to prove the nature of an oral agreement in court.
Most businesses and professionals benefit from signing written contracts even when dealing with a long-term vendor or a relatively simple arrangement. It is possible for either party to potentially misremember or forget terms from an oral agreement, which can certainly complicate the litigation process if the case requires review by the civil courts. Still, there may be evidence that can help in an oral contract scenario.
Records of prior agreements with the same terms, possibly with the same other party, could help establish the typical terms that both parties would uphold. Emails or text messages between the parties might also outline some of the details of the agreement even if neither party actually signed a contract. The courts could uphold or enforce the agreement or even award one party damages because the other has not held a verbal contract.
Someone who has gotten burned by a verbal contract before may, unfortunately, learn the hard way how important it is to negotiate clear terms and sign a written agreement when doing business. With that said, understanding what rules apply to Oklahoma contract disputes, and seeking legal guidance when necessary, may benefit those affected by a breach of contract, whether written or verbal.