Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Smith v. Boyd case brief

Smith v. Boyd case brief summary
553 A.2d 131 (1989)

Defendant owners and defendant-intervenor buyers disputed a decision by the Superior Court, Providence County (Rhode Island), which permanently enjoined the sellers from selling their home to the buyers and required them to convey instead to plaintiff would-be buyers. The court considered the applicability of the statute of frauds and whether a contract was consummated between the sellers and the would-be buyers.

The would-be buyers offered the asking price for the house and they and the sellers negotiated through their brokers concerning a sale of some furnishings. Both the buyers and the would-be buyers signed purchase-and-sales agreement forms, and the sellers signed the buyers' agreement. The would-be buyers sought specific performance.


  • On appeal, the court noted that to create an enforceable contract for the sale of realty, the contract had to be in writing or otherwise satisfy the writing requirement of R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-4(6) (1956) (reenacted 1985). 
  • An admission under oath of a disputed contract by the party to be charged could be used to remedy a writing that by itself would be insufficient. 
  • The court held that, when the parties to an agreement understood that the agreement was to be reduced to writing, and extensive preparation or performance had not begun, the burden of proof to show an objective intent to be bound before execution of the written contract was on the party who sought to enforce an alleged oral contract. 
  • The court held that the sellers had not manifested an objective intent to enter into a binding contract before signing a purchase-and-sales agreement.
The court sustained the appeal, reversed the lower court's judgment and its order of permanent injunction, and remanded the papers to the lower court in the action between the sellers and the would-be buyers for the sale of a home.

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