What can happen if someone verbally agrees to pay for something and never does?

UPDATED: Oct 25, 2010

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What can happen if someone verbally agrees to pay for something and never does?

This girl in my school agreed to pay me for something and now after 7 weeks she hasn’t. I gave her 1 of the things and after 6 weeks of no contact with the girl sold the other thing to my friend. Now she refuses to pay me. What can I do?

Asked on October 25, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, District of Columbia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

1) As a general matter, oral or verbal contracts are enforceable. There are certain common exceptions--contracts to pay someone else's debt; contracts that take more than 1 year to perform; contracts for large dollar values (sometimes; depends on state) or real estate--but those are the exceptions, which must be in writing. Otherwise, oral contracts are enforceable.

2) The problem is, to enforce the orgal agreement, you'd have to sue--there is no other mechanism to do this. Even if you sued in small claims court, which is less costly and more informal, there are still some costs. Also, proving the terms of an oral agreement can be difficult, since it often devolves into "he said, she said." So it's questionable whether it is worthwhile to try to enforce the agreement.

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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