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Cooke v. Goethals

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Gilbert, Lena, and Don Goethals filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that the statute of frauds prevents an oral agreement to sell real property. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A contract can be upheld if one party performed part of his obligations in reliance on the agreement. 

    Facts.

    Steve and Dana Cooke (Cookes) agreed to purchase real property from Gilbert, Lena, and Don Goethals (Goethalses) but the Cookes could not obtain financing for the property until the Goethalses resolved a lot-line adjustment issue. When the Goethalses resolved the lot-line adjustment issue, they refused to sell to the Cookes. The Cookes sued for breach of contract and the trial court granted summary judgment to the Goethalses. 

    Issue.

    Whether a contract can be upheld if one part performed part of his obligations in reliance on the agreement?

    Held.

    Yes. The Cookes acted in accordance with the oral agreements as well as maintained possession, made payments, and made improvements on the property. The decision of the lower court is reversed. 

    Discussion.

    The statute of frauds requires the sale of real estate to be in writing. Partial performance provides an exception to the statute of frauds if: (1) there has been delivery of actual and exclusive possession, (2) consideration has been paid, and (3) improvements on the property have been made. 


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