There is a pivotal scene in the movie “Jerry Maguire” where the hot-shot quarterback’s dad tells Jerry Maguire that his “word is stronger than oak” after Jerry Maguire asked him to sign the contract permitting him to represent his son. The dad went on to explain that because his word was so strong that he “does not do contracts.” Of course, we later learn that Jerry Maguire’s competitor signed the quarterback. The quarterback’s father had broken his promise despite assuring Jerry Maguire that his “word is stronger than oak.”
That broken promise damaged Jerry Maguire’s reputation while costing him thousands of dollars.
What happened to Jerry Maguire illustrates the importance of committing your deal to a written document signed by everyone. Yes, some oral agreements can be enforced in Florida. But oral agreements present many legal challenges and not all are enforceable.
For instance, an oral agreement is probably unenforceable if the agreement cannot be performed in less than a year, involves the sale or transfer of real estate, pertains to home improvements, health care, or credit.
Of course, and as we saw in “Jerry Maguire,” what typically transpires is that business is being transacted with individuals you already know and trust. Therefore, a handshake deal may just “feel like the right thing to do” especially when someone you know, and trust, says something like “my word is stronger than oak.”
But if there is a problem, or misunderstanding, then how will a Judge or jury interpret the oral agreement if there is no writing signed by all the parties memorializing the terms of the deal agreed upon? While it can be done, enforcing oral contracts presents many challenges and hurdles.
As that scene in “Jerry Maguire” illustrates, it is always better to have a written agreement because you may not get the benefit of your bargain if you simply rely on a handshake or verbal commitment. That handshake may help you get the deal done. But it won’t necessarily help you if you need to go to court to file a lawsuit to enforce your rights.
Like Jerry Maguire learned, you can avoid those headaches and uncertainty with a written agreement.
Feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss “Jerry Maguire” or should you want to discuss your potential rights pursuant to a written or oral agreement you currently have in place.