I’m pleased to announce that I prevailed last month in a rescission of contract case in Essex Superior Court. The case involved many important issues involving real estate contracts and the relief that a party to such a contract can obtain from a court if the agreement runs into problems.
Overview of Case
This case involved an oral agreement between two parties for the purchase of a residential home. The deal involved the payment of cash and a promise by one of the parties to assume the mortgage loan. This required the buyer to apply for the mortgage loan to be put in his name, so that the seller was no longer responsible for the debt. This deal was done by a “handshake”-the parties never put the terms of the agreement in writing.
Several years after this deal was made, the seller believed that the buyer had not fulfilled the terms of the deal, and brought a lawsuit seeking a rescission of the contract. A rescission of contract is an action seeking to “undo” a contract. This asks the court to unmake the agreement and put the parties back in the position they were in before the deal was made.
What is a Rescission of Contract?
A rescission of contract is not readily allowed by courts; only certain circumstances will justify this relief. Rescission is generally only allowed in cases of fraud or when a party has committed a material breach of contract: one that defeats its purpose. Here, the seller in this case was alleging this latter reason for seeking a rescission of contract, by arguing that the buyer (my client) failed to comply with important terms of the deal.
Outcome of Case
My strategy in this case was to convince the court that my client had done what was required of him per this agreement. Because this was an oral agreement, this required me to attack the other side’s credibility and build a case that the seller’s story was not believable. In the end, the Court agreed with my client, finding that he had done his end of the deal.
Such a case required an enormous amount of preparation and research. As it came down to a decision by the court on who was more believable, it was essential that my client correctly told his story, and for me to highlight the inconsistencies in the other side’s version of the facts.
This case highlights an essential lesson in entering into a contract (especially one involving real estate): put the deal in writing, and get the assistance of an attorney. If the deal “goes bad”, as this one did, having a written agreement can spar you enormous time and money if a problem arises later on. If you find yourself in a dispute over a real estate contract, contact me for a consultation. Having an experienced attorney on your side is essential in a matter like this.
On a side note, one of the benefits of this case was having the opportunity to do a trial in the Newburyport branch of the Essex Superior Court. This building, hands down, is the most beautiful courthouse in Massachusetts, and is setup in the style of a New England town meeting hall. The picture above was taken by me with my drone, across the pond where the courthouse sits.