In common law legal systems, a contract is an agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by two or more parties, each of whom intends to create one or more legal obligations between them. The elements of a contract are "offer" and "acceptance" by "competent persons" having legal capacity who exchange "consideration" to create "mutuality of obligation."
Proof of some or all of these elements may be done in writing, though contracts may be made entirely orally or by conduct. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" in the form of compensation of money or specific performance enforced through an injunction. Both of these remedies award the party at loss the "benefit of the bargain" or expectation damages, which are greater than mere reliance damages, as in promissory estoppel. The parties may be natural persons or juristic persons. A contract is a legally enforceable promise or undertaking that something will or will not occur. The word promise can be used as a legal synonym for contract, although care is required as a promise may not have the full standing of a contract, as when it is an agreement without consideration.
Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to procedures in criminal law matters). These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced, what kind of service of process (if any) is required, the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases, the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure, the conduct of trials, the process for judgment, various available remedies, and how the courts and clerks must function.
English contract law is a body of law regulating contracts in England and Wales. With its roots in the lex mercatoria and the activism of the judiciary during the industrial revolution, it shares a heritage with countries across the Commonwealth (such as Australia, Canada and India), and the United States. It is also experiencing gradual change because of the UK's membership of the European Union and international organisations like Unidroit. Any agreement that is enforceable in court is a contract. Because a contract is a voluntary obligation, in contrast to paying compensation for a tort and restitution to reverse unjust enrichment, English law places a high value on ensuring people have truly consented to the deals that bind them in court. Generally a contract forms when one person makes an offer, and another person accepts it by communicating their assent or performing the offer's terms. If the terms are certain, and the parties can be presumed from their behaviour to have intended that the terms are binding, generally the agreement is enforceable. Some contracts, particularly for large transactions such as a sale of land, also require the formalities of signatures and witnesses and English law goes further than other European countries by requiring all parties bring something of value, known as "consideration", to a bargain as a precondition to enforce it. Contracts can be made personally or through an agent acting on behalf of a principal, if the agent acts within what a reasonable person would think they have the authority to do. In principle, English law grants people broad freedom to agree the content of a deal. Terms in an agreement are incorporated through express promises, by reference to other terms or potentially through a course of dealing between two parties. Those terms are interpreted by the courts to seek out the true intention of the parties, from the perspective of an objective observer, in the context of their bargaining environment. Where there is a gap, courts typically imply terms to fill the spaces, but also through the 20th century both the judiciary and legislature have intervened more and more to strike out surprising and unfair terms, particularly in favour of consumers, employees or tenants with weaker bargaining power.
Contract law works best when an agreement is performed, and recourse to the courts is never needed because each party knows her rights and duties. However, where an unforeseen event renders an agreement very hard, or even impossible to perform, the courts typically will construe the parties to want to have released themselves from their obligations. It may also be that one party simply breaches a contract's terms. If a contract is not substantially performed, then the innocent party is entitled to cease her own performance and sue for damages to put her in the position as if the contract were performed. She is under a duty to mitigate her losses and cannot claim for harm that was a remote consequence of the contractual breach, but remedies in English law are footed on the principle that full compensation for all losses, pecuniary or not, should be made good. In exceptional circumstances, the law goes further to require a wrongdoer to make restitution for their gains from breaching a contract, and may demand specific performance of the agreement rather than monetary compensation. It is also possible that a contract becomes voidable, because, depending on the specific type of contract, one party failed to make adequate disclosure or they made misrepresentations during negotiations. Unconscionable agreements can be escaped where a person was under duress or undue influence or their vulnerability was being exploited when they ostensibly agreed to a deal. Children, mentally incapacitated people and companies, whose representatives are acting wholly outside their authority, are protected against having agreements enforced against them where they lacked the real capacity to make a decision to enter an agreement. Some transactions are considered illegal, and are not enforced by courts because of a statute or on grounds of public policy. In theory, English law attempts to adhere to a principle that people should only be bound when they have given their informed and true consent to a contract.
Estoppel in English law is a doctrine that may be used in certain situations to prevent a person from relying upon certain rights, or upon a set of facts (e.g. words said or actions performed) which is different from an earlier set of facts.
Estoppel could arise in a situation where a creditor informs a debtor that a debt is forgiven, but then later insists upon repayment. In a case such as this, the creditor may be estopped from relying on their legal right to repayment, as the creditor has represented that he no longer treats the debt as extant. A landlord may tell his tenant that he is not required to pay rent for a period of time ("you don't need to pay rent until the war is over"). After the war is over, the landlord would be "estopped" from claiming rents during the war period. Estoppel is often important in insurance law, where some actions by the insurer or the agent estop the insurer from denying a claim.
Common-law marriage (sometimes spelled without a hyphen), and also known as sui juris marriage, informal marriage or marriage by habit and repute, is an irregular form of marriage that can be legally contracted in an extremely limited number of jurisdictions.
The original concept of a common-law marriage is a marriage that is considered valid by both partners, but has not been formally registered with a state or church registry, or a formal religious service. In effect, the act of the couple representing themselves to others as being married acts as the evidence that they are married. In jurisdictions recognizing common-law marriages, such a marriage is not legally distinct from a traditional ceremonial marriage enacted through a civil or religious ceremony in terms of the couple's rights and obligations to one another.
De facto corporation and corporation by estoppel are both terms that are used by courts in most common law jurisdictions to describe circumstances in which a business organization that has failed to become a de jure corporation (a corporation by law) will nonetheless be treated as a corporation, thereby shielding shareholders from liability.
In order for a de facto corporation to be created, the following elements must exist:
The doctrine of direct estoppel prevents a party to a litigation from relitigating an issue that was decided against that party in that litigation, under certain circumstances. Specifically, direct estoppel applies where the issue was decided as part of a larger claim which was finally decided, and stops the issue from being redecided in another claim of the same lawsuit. Contrast collateral estoppel, which stops a claim from being redecided in another lawsuit.
A Common law legal system is a system of law characterized by case law which is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals. Common law systems also include statutes enacted by legislative bodies, though those statutes typically either codify judicial decisions or fill in areas of the law not covered by case law. In contrast to common law systems, civil law (codified/continental law) systems are founded on a set of legal codes, which are organized laws that attempt to cover exhaustively the various legal domains, and is characterized by an absence of precedent in the judicial application of those codes. In the modern period, both systems tend to include administrative regulations which may also be codified.
A common law system is a legal system that gives great potential precedential weight to common law, on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions. The body of precedent is called "common law" and it binds future decisions. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision (this principle is known as stare decisis). If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases (called a "matter of first impression"), judges have the authority and duty to make law by creating precedent. Thereafter, the new decision becomes precedent, and will bind future courts.