Is it legal to have someone sign a contract that is not in there primary language?

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Is it legal to have someone sign a contract that is not in there primary language?

Someone I work for leased a credit card machine from a sales man who came into
his restaurant. his primary language is spanish. He understands english.
However, his reading and writing are limited. Was it illegal for The sales man
to have him sign a contract with no interpreter or spanish version of the
contract? The sales person didn’t explain the fees or that the lease was for 3
years. His resturaunt closed one year after signing the contract. I called them
today and asked for a copy of the contract. What they sent wasn’t the original
contract. It also wasn’t his writing, and it was written in as a 4 year
contract. Now they are saying he owes 9,200. I filed a complaint with the BBB.
However, I don’t think this will resolve it. I mentioned to the lady on the
phone that there should have been a spanish version of the contract. She said
it was his responsibility to not sign a contract he didn’t understand. Is he
responsible for these charges? If not what papers could we file with the court
to dispute this?

Asked on April 21, 2016 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a person is responsible themselves for making sure they understand what they sign: they have the right to not sign a contract or enter into an agreement without having a translated version or without at least having an interpreter orally translate it for them. No one forced your colleague to sign: he chose to do so. Having chosen to sign the agreement, he is bound to its terms. He can try to dispute it in court (e.g. file a legal action for a "declaratory judgment" or court determination that the contract is void because of fraud and unilaterlal mistake--that they knowingly lied to him and the contract he signed is not what he thought it was; or he can wait to be sued and raise this as a defense) and he may be successful, but he needs to understand that the legal presumption is that you agree to what you signed, and the fact that he chose to sign without having the document translated will weigh heavily against him: he cannot actually say what was in the contract because he chose to sign without understanding it, and that will make it hard to show that he was defrauded, since fraud requires that the defrauded party have "reasonably" relied on the other party's representations--but there is not reasonable about signing something you can't read. His odds of winning are not necessarily good.


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