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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Oral Contracts Are Worth the Paper They're Printed On

Aaa_78 This is the time of year when we find ourselves drumming into students' heads the idea that "contract" doesn't mean "signed piece of paper" -- that there are such things as oral contracts, even involving vast sums of money.  A new dispute out of Las Vegas gives us a great example.  As Nova Southeastern's Ronald Brown notes in the linked article, "It is really easier to create an enforceable contract than most people think."

The dispute involves the alleged promise made by the winner of the largest poker jackpot in history to split his $12 million take 50/50 with another man.  Sometime Hollywood talent agent Jamie Gold, who beat out some 8,000 contestants, allegedly promised Crispin Leyser before the tournament that Leyser would be entitled to half his potential winnings in exchange for Leyser's services in lining up celebrities to wear clothes advertising one of Gold's clients.  Gold denies the deal, claiming a "misunderstanding," but Leyser says he's got a taped message on his answering machine referring to the deal.

An interesting aspect is that such oral deals are apparently not unknown in poker circles -- top players often have deals with backers to split winnings, and they apparently are not always in writing.

[Frank Snyder -- hat tip, Gerry Caplan]

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