Fourth, contracts governed by the Statute of Frauds may be modified orally if the resulting contract, taken as a whole, falls outside the statute. The same rule applies under the UCC. 1 Thus a written contract for the sale of a new bicycle worth $1,200 may be orally modified by substituting the sale of a used bicycle worth $450, but not by substituting the sale of a used bike worth $600. The modified contract effectively rescinds the original contract.
The Statute of Frauds, an ancient legislative intrusion into common-law contracts, requires that certain contracts be evidenced by some writing, signed by the party to be bound, to be enforceable. Among those affected by the statute are contracts for an interest in real estate, contracts that by their terms cannot be performed within one year, contracts whereby one person agrees to pay the debt of another, contracts involving the exchange of consideration upon promise to marry (except mutual promises to marry), and, under the UCC, contracts in an amount greater than $500. For each contract affected by the statute, there are various exceptions intended to prevent the statute from being used to avoid oral contracts when it is very likely such were in fact made.
The writing need not be a contract; anything in writing, signed by the person to be bound, showing adequate contractual intention will take the matter out of the statute and allow a party to attempt to show the existence of the oral contract.
There may be relief under restitution or promissory estoppel. Contracts affected by the statute can usually be orally rescinded. Any contract can be modified or rescinded; if the new oral contract as modified does not fall within the statute, the statute does not apply.
- What is the purpose of the Statute of Frauds?
- What common-law contracts are affected by it, and what are the exceptions?
- How does the UCC deal with the Statute of Frauds?
- How is the requirement of the statute satisfied?
- Contracts can always be modified. How does the Statute of Frauds play with contract modification?