Statute of Frauds and Partial Performance

As a general rule, the Statute of Frauds allows a party to avoid oral agreement for the sale of real estate, the costs of goods over $500, a marriage contract, the guarantee of another’s debt, or contracts that cannot be completed within one year; however, where there is partial performance, an oral contract may become enforceable.

What if an oral contract is both for over one year and for real estate? Recently, on December 9, 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court decided Ficke v. Wolken, 22 Neb.App. 587 (2014).

In the Ficke v. Wolken decision, the Court affirmed the decision of the Gage County District Court, which ordered specific performance of an oral contract to transfer 80 acres of farmland from Wolken to Ficke. The Court held Wolken made an oral promise to Ficke to give him the land if Ficke worked for Wolken for 10 years and Wolken completed his end of the agreement. In reaching its holding, the Nebraska Supreme Court noted:

  • As a general rule, an oral contract to transfer real estate is voidable as a violation of the Statute of Frauds.
  • Partial performance – where one party completes performance under an oral contract – may make the oral contract enforceable, despite the Statute of Frauds.
  • A party must demonstrate his performance was solely attributable to the oral contract.
  • Further, a party must prove, inter alia, the terms of the oral contract were clear, satisfactory, and unequivocal.
  • The Court found Ficke was completely credible in proving the existence of the agreement.
  • And that Ficke had completed his part of the contract.

If someone has breached a contract with you – even an oral one – contact the Berry Law. We can help.

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