Implied Contract Law

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 What Is an Implied Contract?

Implied contracts are often formed in the course of social or business interactions where there’s an unspoken understanding that services rendered will be compensated, or certain obligations will be met. The formation of an implied contract relies heavily on the context and the relationship between the parties involved.

For instance, consider a scenario where a person regularly visits a barbershop for a haircut. After receiving a haircut, the customer is expected to pay for the service. Here, although there is no written contract or formal verbal agreement about payment, an implied performing of contract duties is formed through the actions of both parties.

Similarly, if you’re dining at a restaurant, you choose a dish from the menu and the server brings it to your table. In this instance, you never explicitly promised to pay for the meal. But by the very act of ordering from the menu, an implied contract was created. If you try to leave without paying, you could be held responsible for violating the implied contract.

Implied contracts also often occur in employment situations. If an employer has a consistent habit of providing a year-end bonus to employees, this may create an expectation and thus form an implied contract. If the employer suddenly stops giving the bonus without any notification or reason, they could potentially be held accountable for violating the implied contract.

It’s important to note that implied contracts are as legally binding as express contracts (those explicitly agreed upon, either verbally or in writing). However, they can be challenging to enforce due to their nebulous nature and the difficulty of proving their existence. Courts will generally evaluate the entirety of the relationship and conduct of the parties when determining whether an implied contract exists.

Remember, these examples are generalized and outcomes can significantly vary based on jurisdiction and the specifics of the situation. Always consult with a contract attorney to understand potential legal obligations and rights in a given scenario.

Are There Different Types of Implied Contracts?

Yes, there are two main types of implied contracts: implied-in-fact and implied-in-law.

An implied-in-fact contract occurs when the agreement and obligations of the parties are not written or spoken but are indicated by their behavior or conduct. An implied-in-law contract, also known as a quasi-contract, is not a contract in the traditional sense but is treated as a contract by the court to ensure justice and avoid unjust enrichment.

Implied-in-fact Contract

Suppose you visit a barber shop and sit in the barber’s chair. Without saying a word, the barber proceeds to cut your hair. After the cut, you get up and leave without paying. In this case, even though no verbal or written agreement was made, an implied-in-fact contract was formed. The mutual conduct (you sitting in the chair, the barber cutting your hair) created an understanding that you would pay for the services.

Implied-in-law Contract (Quasi-contract)

Imagine a scenario where you’re unconscious from a severe allergic reaction. A passing doctor administers treatment that saves your life. Later, the doctor sends you a bill for her professional services. Even though you didn’t agree to this (as you were unconscious), a court might enforce a quasi-contract, obligating you to pay the doctor. This is to prevent unjust enrichment – it wouldn’t be fair for you to benefit from the doctor’s professional services without compensating her.

In both scenarios, no explicit agreement was made. However, the behavior of the parties involved, or the circumstances, led to an implied agreement being enforced.

How to Prove an Implied Contract?

Proving an implied contract can be more complex than proving an explicit one due to the lack of tangible evidence. However, the elements of an implied contract include the parties’ conduct suggesting an agreement or mutual consent, an offer and acceptance, and a meeting of the minds.

Evidence of these can come from a consistent pattern of behavior, a history of similar dealings, or demonstrated expectations of payment or fulfillment of obligations. If one party defaults on their obligations, the other party may be justified in pursuing a legal remedy, such as paying damages.

Let’s consider scenarios for each of these elements:

Conduct Suggesting an Agreement or Mutual Consent

Let’s imagine a scenario where you have a routine where you drive your neighbor’s kid to school every morning. In exchange, your neighbor mows your lawn every weekend. This has been ongoing for a year. Even if nothing is spoken or written, the conduct of both parties suggests an agreement or mutual consent to provide these services for each other. If one party suddenly stops fulfilling their part, they could be held accountable for violating this implied contract.

Offer and Acceptance

Suppose a friend frequently asks for your assistance with their tax return every year. They always express gratitude by gifting you a bottle of your favorite wine. This year, you help as usual, but your friend doesn’t gift you a bottle of wine. In this case, there was an offer (help with the tax return) and acceptance (you provide the help), establishing an implied contract. The friend’s failure to provide the usual ‘payment’ could be seen as a breach of this implied contract.

Meeting of the Minds and Expectations of Payment

Consider a case where you run a small business from home, and your friend helps you pack and ship your products. This has been happening for several months, and you’ve been paying your friend for their time. If one month you decide not to pay, stating there was no contract, your friend could argue that an implied contract existed. The regularity of the work and the consistent payment could be seen as a “meeting of the minds” and a clear expectation of payment for services rendered.

Remember, these are just examples, and how these situations are treated can vary significantly based on the specifics of each case and jurisdiction. It’s always advisable to consult with a lawyer for guidance if you believe an implied contract has been breached.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Implied Contract Issues?

Understanding and proving the existence of an implied contract can be tricky, especially without explicit terms or clauses to rely upon. This is where a contract lawyer becomes invaluable.

A lawyer can help you gather and present the necessary evidence to establish an implied contract. They are equipped to evaluate various facets such as your conduct, historical interactions, industry norms, or the context of your relationship with the other party. They can identify the subtle yet essential details that signify a mutual understanding, a key component of an implied contract.

With a lawyer’s experience, you can effectively negotiate the terms of your implied contract. They can help you clarify your obligations and rights, minimizing any ambiguity that could lead to misunderstandings or disputes down the line.

Additionally, if a breach of an implied contract occurs, a lawyer can help you understand your options for legal recourse, which can range from negotiating a settlement to pursuing a lawsuit. If your case goes to court, your lawyer can represent you, present your case in the best possible light, and strive to protect your interests.

It’s also essential to remember that laws around implied contracts can vary considerably by jurisdiction. A lawyer who is well-versed in your local laws can provide relevant advice and ensure that you comply with any regional legal requirements.

When dealing with implied contracts, hiring a lawyer isn’t just an option—it’s a practical necessity to ensure your rights are protected and your obligations are clearly defined. You can find a contract lawyer near you through LegalMatch who can guide you through this intricate legal terrain and help you address any issues you may be facing with an implied contract.


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