CanI be sued for a loan that was really a gift but there was nothing in writing?

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CanI be sued for a loan that was really a gift but there was nothing in writing?

My ex just informed me that he is planning on taking me to court to sue for $500 that he gave me when we were dating. There was no written agreement that it was a loan at the time the money was given. Does he have a case if there was no written agreement?

Asked on November 17, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An oral (also called a verbal) contract is enforceable, and that includes an oral "contract" that  is really a loan agreement. (While there are some oral contracts that are not enforceable under a doctrine known as the "statutes of frauds," those cases don't appear to apply here.) The issue is proof: how do you prove the terms of a loan, or even that it was a loan, when there is nothing in writing, if there were only two witnesses (so you and your ex) and  you each tell a different story? Of course, if there's nothing in writing, there's equally no direct proof it was a gift, either. Generally speaking, when there is little or no evidence, the advantage lies with the one being sued, since it's the one who is suing who has  the burden, or responsibility, of proving his case; however, depending on the circumstances, who is more persuasive or believable, etc., he could still  win. So with nothing in writing, (1) he can sue you; (2) you probably have the advantage in defending yourself; but (3) it is not certain you'd win.


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