Can a former employer sue me for a breach of contract based on e-mails?

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Can a former employer sue me for a breach of contract based on e-mails?

I did piecework for a woman 3 years ago. After working with her for over 6 months, she asked me to sign a contract stating I would never make or sell what she was selling on my own. I refused to sign the contract. Now, 3 years later, I am making and selling something similar to the piecework I did for her. She has demanded that I cease and desist or she will take further action. I never signed the contract, but she says she has emails from me saying I wouldn’t make the item in question. I am certain these emails don’t exist, but she is demanding I stop or she will take legal action.

Asked on May 27, 2011 under Business Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The question is whether those emails exist, what they say, and the circumstances under  which they were written. A contract to not compete, to not use information or designs created for another, etc. is enforceable. A contract does not need to be a single piece of paper, signed by both parties. Rather a contract is simply an agreement between parties. It can be evidenced in other ways, including by a series of emails or other correspondence which, taken together, show agreement. Thus, the issue is whether an agreement was formed between the two of you, and whether  or not she can prove that one was formed. There may be an enforceable agreement in this case.


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