Is averbal contract enforceable?

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Is averbal contract enforceable?

I dropped off my car to be painted and the guy said it did not look bad. I told him my budget was $7,000 and he said that should be no problem. The next time we spoke he said there was a problem that “might” push my budget up. I looked at it and told him I could go as high as $8,200 to complete it and he again said “that should be no problem”. Now he is about 60% done and the bill is $8750 and it will run about 16k to finish. What are my rights? Can I go get my car and settle this in court?

Asked on July 5, 2011 under General Practice, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A verbal, or more properly, oral, contract or agreement is enforceable. The problem is proving not just its existence but also its terms, if the parties should disagree. For example: suppose it was not an agreement to perform the repairs for a set price (e.g. $7,000 or $8,200), but rather simply a non-binding estimate of what the repair person thought it should cost? In that event, you might not be able to hold him to the amount, since a non-binding estimate is--so long as there is no deliberate deception--non-binding. If the repairman will claim or testify that he gave you only a non-binding estimate, how would you prove it was a binding agreement to do the work for a set price?

That's not to say you couldn't win, but you need to recognize the weakness of your position.
Given the uncertainty and costs of court, it may be best to try to negotiate, if possible, to something you could live with--$10k? $12k?--and then get that reduced to a written agreement which you could later enforce at need.


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