June 28, 2007

It's not a contract until the "By:" line is executed

An unexecuted written agreement can be binding, but only if there is mutual assent between the parties to the agreement. In TERRY PAUL, ET AL. v. MERIT CONSTRUCTION, INC., the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that a defendant general contractor could not enforce an arbitration provision contained in a contract that was partially filled out by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were were masonry subcontractors who had been working on the subject construction site for months, before the GC presented them with the standard form of Agreement between Contractor and Sub-Contractor. The facts discussed by the court indicate that there was evidence of an unresolved disagreement about the terms of the Agreement between the parties. One of the plaintiffs wrote their name in the "Subcontractor: ______" line of the acknowledgement in the Agreement, but did not execute the "By: ______" line. According to the Court, this did not constitute execution or mutual assent.

Perhaps the holding would have been different had the GC presented the Agreement before the plaintiffs began their work. That way, the GC could argue that the act of beginning work would manifest assent to the terms of the agreement. In this case, the Agreement was presented months after the start date, and therefore the act of continuing work merely manifested the intent to continue under the prior oral agreement.

Sellers must search and investigate the chain of title before purchasing land

This point is obvious, but in AARON BURKHART v. WELLS FARGO BANK WEST, N.A., ET AL., the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the duty of a purchaser of land to discover and investigate matters of public record (in this case, a deed of trust at the courthouse) trumps the duty of the seller to disclose material facts affecting the property’s value known to the seller but not reasonably known to or discoverable by the buyer. Further, the Court held that failure to disclose said matters of public record does not constitute an unfair or deceptive practice under th Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, § 47-18-101 et seq.

June 14, 2007

Initial post

This blog relates to construction law as practiced in Tennessee.