If I verbally committed to sell something, am I allowed to change my mind and not sell if I’ve received no payment?

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If I verbally committed to sell something, am I allowed to change my mind and not sell if I’ve received no payment?

The guy is threatening to take me to court. I agreed to sell a horse for $4000.

Asked on October 28, 2013 under Business Law, South Dakota

Answers:

Anne Brady / Law Office of Anne Brady

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

No, you are not allowed to change your mind once you have agreed to sell something for a given price, with few exceptions, and it does not sound like your situation falls under an exception.  The basic elements of forming a contract are offer and acceptance and consideration.  Here, either you offered to sell the horse or he offered to buy.  The other of you accepted.  The consideration for you is the $4,000 and for him is the horse.  If one of you had defrauded the other or misrepresented ability to pay, there might be grounds to void the contract, but that does not appear to be the case here.  You may not arbitrarily change your mind.

However, should you refuse to sell and should the guy sue you, his monetary damages will be limited to the benefit of the bargain to him.  For example, say he goes shopping for a similar horse and the only one he can find that is equally good costs $5,000.  His damages in a lawsuit against you would be $1,000 - the difference between what he paid and what he would have paid if you had gone through with the sale.  Of course, he could sue for specific performance, attempting to force you to sell him the horse for $4,000.  However, if you in the meantime have sold it to someone else, that will not be possible.

 

 


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