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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Get it in Writing. . .

Samuel Goldwyn apparently once said that "[a]n oral contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."  Indeed, this was the lesson recently in Trustmark Insurance Co. v. General & Cologne Life Re of America, where the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant on plaintiff's breach of contract claim because the plaintiff could not produce a written document to satisfy the requirements of the statute of frauds.

Judge Williams began the opinion:

Surely, if there is any moral to this story, it is to "get it in writing."  It is astounding in this day and age to find it necessary to repeat this admonition but no less so than to find a sophisticated party willing to leverage an agreement involving multiple years and millions of dollars solely on the enforceability of a simple handshake.  Yet that is precisely what happened in this case.  Plaintiff Trustmark Insurance Company ("Trustmark") brought suit against defendant General & Cologne Life Re of America ("Cologne"), another insurance company, over an alleged reinsurance deal that was not committed to writing.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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