Contract law forms the basis of nearly all commercial interactions in modern society. Although many people do not realize it, they enter into several contracts each day.
Contracts include the obvious examples, such as leases, rental agreements, employment contracts, and real estate sales, but also include the purchase of a soda from the neighborhood convenience store. It would be very difficult to imagine a modern society that was not dominated by contracts in the way that the United States and much of the world is currently.
Contract law takes its basis from the Latin phrase pacta sunt servanda, which means “agreements are to be kept.” The understanding of contract law that is held in the United States is based on the British common law system and has been modified by the Uniform Commercial Code.
Contract law places obligations on all parties that enter into contracts which are mutually binding. In most circumstances, these contracts cannot be broken without the breaking party being required to provide compensation to the other party. To learn more about the history of contract law, please read this link.
Common Law Governance of Contracts
Contract law is based on a common law heritage inherited by America from Great Britain. Under the common law system, the laws governing contracts were not codified as they are today. Instead, the governance of contracts was based on previous rulings by the justices. Contract law is based in both the common law and equity court systems of England.
As a result, American contract law is concerned both with ensuring that contracts are enforced when the fairest course of action is to enforce the contract, but when it would place an unreasonable burden on one of the parties, the courts often abridge contracts. The preference of non-interference in contractual relationships is found in the Contract Clause of the Constitution.
Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)
The UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code, is a national attempt to streamline the laws governing commerce across the United States. It consists of 11 Articles. Ten of these Articles have been adopted in every State. Louisiana is the only State that has not adopted every Article.
Although the UCC is not the specific law in any jurisdiction, it does provide the basis for each State’s commercial laws. Each State adjusts the organization of the Code to adhere to its particular tradition, but the essential elements remain the same from State to State. For more information on the UCC, please click the link.
Functions of Contract Law
Contract law exists to record the obligations each party to a contract has to the other party. Contracts also are meant to protect the rights of both parties to the contract. In addition to laying out the responsibilities of the contracted parties, contract laws also assign each party with rights. Contract laws also lay out penalties in the event a contractual obligation is not upheld. To learn more about the fundamentals of contract law, please click the link.
Objective Theory of Contracts
The objective theory of contracts states that contracts will only be enforceable if a reasonable observer watching contractual negotiations would believe the terms being laid out are fair.
This is an essential element of contract law because it serves a court examining a contract with a reasonable baseline against which to compare the terms of a contract. It allows an advertisement of ridiculous terms to not be considered a serious invitation to treat. For a more thorough examination of the theory please follow the link.
Requirements of a Contract
There are five common elements that must be present to form a legally enforceable contract. These elements are agreement (which constitutes offer and acceptance), consideration, the intention to be bound by the contract, the legal capacity to enter into a contract, and the formalization of the contract. It is also essential that the contract be for a legal purpose. For a more thorough examination of these aspects, click the link.
There are six different types of contract. These contract types constitute three different categories. There are bilateral and unilateral contracts. Formal and informal contracts form the next classification. The final category of contracts is express contracts and implied-in-fact contracts. Each type of contract can best be explained by following the comparisons found here.
When attempting to enforce a contract, the courts divide contracts into two broad categories of contracts. Valid contracts include enforceable contracts, voidable contracts, and unenforceable contracts. If a contract is not valid, it is considered a void contract.
A quasi-contract may be formed either through a statute that imposes contractual obligations between two parties or affords protections to circumstances that the Government finds needs the protection. For a more thorough examination of the ways in which contracts are enforced, follow the link.
When charged with interpreting contracts, the courts will usually attempt to interpret them in a manner that most clearly adheres to the original intentions of the parties at the time the contracts were formed. If the intentions of the contracting parties cannot be determined, the courts will attempt to base their interpretation on the fairest interpretation of the terms.
In the event that evidence suggests that the party which drafted the terms of the contract left the wording intentionally vague, the courts will interpret the contract in a way most beneficial to the party which did not draft the contract. For an analysis of how the courts typically imbue meaning to the contracts before them, follow the link.
The legality of a contract can be attacked from several fronts by a litigant. A litigant may argue that a contract should be invalidated because it is a contract contrary to statute. A litigant may also claim that a contract they have entered into should be declared void or voidable because it is contrary to public policy.
At any point when a contract is before the court, the court can declare that a contract is illegal because it has been formed in order to engage in the commission an illegal act. If only a specific clause causes the contract to be illegal, and the clause can be stricken without fundamentally changing the contract, then the courts may enforce an existing severable clause or create one if it does not already exist.
The legality of a contract may also be disputed if a litigant claims that their assent was not genuine. There are several reasons that the courts may hold this to be an acceptable reason to rescind a contracts standing as valid. To examine the legal challenges that may be filed against a contract, please see the link.