Wagers v. Associated Mortgage Case Brief

Summary of Wagers v. Associated Mortgage
Washington Ct. App [1978]

Statute of Frauds: Part Performance

Relevant Facts: Pl Wagers was building contractor in Washington. Df AMI and pl began negotiation for a tract of land, 104 lots. Df representative indicated that the principal owner was AMI and they controlled the property, subject to other persons having an interest. Pl was assured AMI was authorized to make the sale, but had to receive approval of the board of trustees. Wagers submitted an earnest money agreement to AMI to purchase the lots for $250000. AMI amended for $270000. Then pl was informed a party with interest was hedging for more money. Several letters were sent between the respective parties’ attorneys.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the earnest money agreement, combined with the letters exchanged between the attorneys constitutes a sufficient writing under the S/F?

Whether pl tendered part performance as an exception to S/F?

Court’s Holding: No. No.

Procedure: PL sought specific performance or damages in the alternative, df moved for dismissal. Trial ct treated as a summary judgment and entered partial summary dismissing first cause. Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): Sales of land to be enforceable must ordinarily be in writing signed by the party to be charged. An oral agreement can be equally effective and binding as a written one when the terms are reasonably established in writing by a series of documents and/or written memorandum which would establish the subject matter, consideration, identity of the parties and the terms of the agreement.

Court Rationale: Pl at all times was advised that his earnest money was subject to approval of the board as well as its ability to arrange for delivery of clear title. Pl’s attorney was unsure as to the subject matter of the sale and attempted to submit a formula to reduce the amount of the total purchase price. Df’s attorney immediately responded that there was no sale which had been approved and any changes in the terms would require additional approval of the parties with interest. The memorandum and the earnest money agreement are insufficient to satisfy the S/F. We have none of the three elements or circumstances in this case to constitute part performance.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The S/f may be satisfied by various kinds of written memorandum, the earnest money agreement and the initial letter from df’s attorney and pl’s atty are sufficient.

Defendant’s Argument: There is no clear subject matter or finalized terms established within the letters, or the consideration has yet to be finalized.

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