If a client does not physically sign a contract but verbally agrees to it and pays the full amount, are they still obligated to follow the terms if they cancel services?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If a client does not physically sign a contract but verbally agrees to it and pays the full amount, are they still obligated to follow the terms if they cancel services?

I have a service business which I provide hair and makeup for weddings and special occasions. Brides book me months in advance to be sure I am available for their date. My client reserved services 9 months prior to her wedding date. I sent her a contract and while she never signed it, she made the scheduled payments on It, we made a timeline for the day of, also had a verbal agreement,

Asked on August 25, 2016 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Even though she did not sign the contract, a court would most likely find that an enforceable contract exists and she is obligated to it: you sent her the contract, which means you offered her certain terms; she showed that she accepted or agreed to those terms, by making payments under the contract, doing necessary planning (the timeline) needed for the contract, sent texts agreeing to or referencing the contract, stated orally that she agreed to it, etc.; and as stated, she provided consideration (made payments) and you, too, provided consideration (hired an assistant; reserved the day for her)--consideration is either giving the other side side something of value (which includes valuable promises--like reserving the day for her) or expending money, effort, time, etc. in furtherance of the contract (hiring the assistant).
When you have an offer, evidence of acceptance of that offer, and an exchange of consideration, you have a contract, even if the other side did not necessarily sign on the bottom line.
Therefore, you can hold her to the terms of the contract, suchs no refund; can sue her for any additional amounts due; and if she gives you a bad review which contains *lies,* you could sue her for defamation. But only if the review has factual untruths. So if she writes that you illegally kept her money, you could sue--you seem, as discussed above, to be legally entitled to it. But if she wrote that you were greedy and unreasonable and refused to refund the money to her when she told you she wanted to cancel 2 months in advance, that is either her opinion ("greedy" and "unreasonable" are opinions, not facts) or is a true fact (you write she did try to cancel 2 months in advance); but neither opinions nor true facts are defamation, so in this case, you could not sue.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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