Unit 8. Form of the AgreementФормы договоров

Сделки совершаются устно или в письменной форме (простой или нотариальной) (статьи 161, 162, 163, глава 27 ГК РФ). Сделка в письменной форме должна быть совершена путем составления документа, выражающего ее содержание и подписанного лицом или лицами, совершающими сделку, или должным образом уполномоченными ими лицами.

Сделки юридических лиц между собой и с гражданами (в том числе, требующие нотариального удостоверения), за исключением сделок, которые могут быть совершены устно, а также сделки на сумму, превышающую не менее чем в 10 раз установленный законом минимальный размер оплаты труда, а также в случаях, предусмотренных законами, независимо от суммы, а именно: учредительные договоры, уставы, сделки связанные с продажей доли в праве собственности, соглашения о неустойке, залоге, поручительстве, и т. д., должны заключаться в письменной форме. При любой форме и содержании договор должен обязательно иметь существенные условия: предмет договора, условия, существенные для договоров данного вида, а также условия, относительно которых по заявлению одной из сторон должно быть достигнуто соглашение, например, цена договора, порядок расчетов, и др.

List of key terms and word combinations:

– acknowledgment – признание, подтверждение (например, получения документа)

– best evidence rule – требование представления наилучших (первичных, подлинных) доказательств

– condition precedent – предварительное условие

– equal dignities rule – правило равного достоинства (акцепт должен быть осуществлен с помощью тех же самых средств, которые были использованы для производства оферты)

– equitable estoppel – лишение стороны права возражения по причине ее предшествующего поведения

– memorandum – памятная записка, меморандум, запись

– parol evidence rule – правило, исключающее устные доказательства, изменяющие или дополняющие письменное соглашение

– part performance – частичное исполнение

Some of the agreements are written, some are oral, and some are implied.

The validity of the contracts did not always depend on their being in writing.
It would be correct, therefore, to conclude that many contracts do not have to be in writing to be enforceable. In fact, the vast majority of contracts that are entered into every day are oral. Sometimes, of course, it is desirable to reduce a contract to writing so that the terms are clear to all parties. However, a writing is not usually required. There is a law requiring certain contracts to be in writing to be enforceable.

According to laws applicable in most jurisdictions today, six types of contracts must be in writing to be enforceable:

• contracts not to be completed within one year,

• contracts for the sale of land,

• contracts for the sale of goods of a curtain sum or more,

• contracts of executors and administrators,

• a guaranty of debts or wrongdoing of another, and

• contracts in consideration of marriage.

Just what is meant when the statute states that «the agreement must be in writing*? The writing should be intelligible. It may be embodied in letters, memos, telegrams, invoices, and purchase orders sent between the parties. It may be written on any surface suitable for the purpose of recording the intention of the parties, as long as all the required elements are present.

To be absolutely complete, a written agreement, or memorandum, as it is often called, should contain the following elements:

• terms of the agreement,

• identification of the subject matter,

• statement of the consideration promised,

• names and identities of the persons to be obligated, and

• the signature of the party sought to be bound to the agreement.

A writing may be acceptable and enforced even though it omits or does not correctly state some material terms (price, terms, and place of payment; terms of delivery; and other factors) agreed upon by the contracting parties.

To be enforceable, only the following must be shown in a writing:

• proof of the contract intent,

• quantity ordered,

• names of parties, and

• the signature of the party sought to be bound to the agreement.

Throughout the years, the courts have developed certain rules that make the interpretation and enforcement of written contracts consistent and predictable.

The three most important rules in this regard are the parol evidence rule, the best evidence rule, and the equal dignities rule. The parol evidence rule involves the interpretation of written contracts, while the equal dignities rule involves their enforcement.

Under the parol evidence rule, evidence of oral statements made before signing a written agreement is usually not admissible in court to change or to contradict the terms of a written agreement. Following oral discussion and negotiation, it is customary for parties to reduce their agreements to some written form. Of the terms, conditions, and promises discussed, only those included in a writing will be enforced. This provision is because the court presumes that the parties will have put everything they agreed to in writing.

The parol evidence rule will not apply when unfair and unjust decisions might result from its application. While many unjust situations can occur, they generally fall into one of five categories: incomplete, ambiguous, or erroneous agreements; void and voidable agreements; agreements based on a condition precedent; modified or rescinded agreements; or agreements involving past or usual commercial practice.

In cases in which a written agreement is incomplete, oral evidence may be used to supply the missing terms. In general, the courts allow a party to a written agreement to introduce oral testimony to show that the contract is void or voidable due to a lack of mutual assent or contractual capacity. The courts are willing to allow such testimony because it does not affect the terms of the agreement. Rather, it seeks to discredit the entire transaction. Thus, it is permissible to introduce oral evidence as to fraud, duress, misrepresentation, mistake, and undue influence. Similarly, it is appropriate to offer oral testimony as to a party's minority or mental incompetence.

If a written agreement is dependent upon some event before it becomes enforceable, then oral evidence may be offered concerning that condition precedent.

A condition precedent is an act or promise that must take place or be fulfilled before the other party is obligated to perform his or her part of the agreement.

As a final exception to the parol evidence rule, some regulations allow oral testimony about how the parties have done business together over a long time period. These regulations make allowance for this type of testimony because, from a practical point of view, parties often get so used to dealing with each other in a particular way that they neglect to include certain terms in their written agreements. Similarly, some practices are so universal in a particular trade, business, or industry that the parties feel no need to include such universal practices in their written contracts. Accordingly, regulations allow oral testimony to supplement a written agreement as to these practices.

Under the best evidence rule, the courts generally accept into evidence only the original of a writing, not a copy.

Under this rule, a written instrument is regarded as the primary or best possible evidence. Thus, the best evidence rule concurs with and supports the parol evidence rule.

The equal dignities rule provides that when a party appoints an agent to negotiate an agreement that must be in writing, the appointment of the agent must also be in writing.

Certain formalities are usually followed in the formation of other than the simplest kinds of written agreements. While a law may necessitate nothing more than the briefest written disclosure of promises, conditions, and terms, plus the signature(s) of the obligated party or parties, usually contracts in general commercial and consumer use are carefully written, researched for legal compliance, and signed. Furthermore, leases and contracts for the sale of real property may have additional requirements of content and formality that extend beyond these formalities.

Written agreements should be, but need not be, signed by both parties. If signed by only one party, any obligation on the agreement would be limited to that party alone.

Witnesses are required in the signing of a will, but in most other documents their signatures are at the option of the contracting parties. To ensure that no misunderstanding will arise as to the acceptance and signing of a written agreement, the use of witnesses is advised. Certain official documents, such as a certificate of title to a motor vehicle, require the owner's signature and an acknowledgment by a notary public when transferring ownership. The notary witnesses the signing of the document and then acknowledges this act by signing the document and adding the official seal to it. A notary is not authorized to read the document being signed and may be prevented from doing so. The notary's legal authority includes the act of acknowledging another's signature to be the result of this person's own free act and deed before the notary.

Some jurisdictions still make use of a seal when a formal contract is signed.

As a protection to lenders and to persons selling goods through installment contracts and the like, the law provides that certain documents be recorded in a public office for inspection by anyone wishing to know about them. For example, when money is loaned on a motor vehicle, the lender may record that transaction in the appropriate public office to protect his or her interest in the vehicle.

Exercise 1. Comprehension questions:

1. What are the forms of agreements?

2. What are the most important rules involving written contracts?

3. What are the exceptions to the parol evidence rule?

4. Explain what condition precedent is.

5. When is the use of witnesses advised?

6. When is acknowledgement by a notary public required and what for?

Exercise 2. Find in the text English equivalents to the following:

Подтверждение; попечитель над наследственным имуществом; требование представления наилучших доказательств; предварительное условие; правило равного достоинства; лишение стороны права возражения по причине ее предшествующего поведения; исполнитель завещания; правило, исключающее устные доказательства; частичное исполнение.

Exercise 3. Consult recommended dictionaries and give words or phrases to the following definitions:

Письменная форма договора; устная форма договора; простая письменная форма; государственная регистрация договора; нотариальная форма договора.

Exercise 4. Be ready to talk on one of the following topics:

1. Identify the types of agreements that must be in writing.

2. List the essential information that should be included in a written memorandum.

3. Explain what is meant by the parol evidence rule.

4. Compare the best evidence rule with the equal dignities rule.

5. Illustrate some methods of writing a signature and discuss the use of a seal.

Exercise 5. Make up your own dialog on the case: In American parts Co. v. American Arbitration Association, the parties had initially reached an oral understanding. The seller had thereafter sent a conforming form which purportedly recited the contract terms (including quantity), added an arbitration clause, and provided that the entire form would become controlling if the «buyer accepts delivery of all or any part of the goods herein described.» The buyer allegedly refused to accept some of the goods, and the seller then sought arbitration. The buyer sought a stay, and the seller moved for summary judgment. In denying summary judgment the court assumed that a conforming form can constitute an «acceptance» even where there has already been an oral offer and acceptance. As a corollary, certain additional terms in the confirmation may become (retroactively, as it were) a part of the original contract.

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Источник: Е.Г. Анисимова, С. В. Коростелёв. Английский язык для юристов. Предпринимательское право. 2011

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