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Articles Posted in Sales Contracts

out-of-the-park-842657-m.jpgA recent news story caught my eye because it shows the importance of a win-win negotiation strategy and the need to accurately assess your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Though it deals with personal injury claims in Kansas, it can teach a lot to businesses in New York and across the country.

The state legislature in Kansas is considering a few important changes to personal injury litigation: increasing the cap on non-economic damages while at the same time changing the rules of evidence to allow a jury to hear whether a plaintiff has had losses covered by other, or collateral, sources including insurance, and to make it more difficult to use questionable expert testimony. To put it another way, the proposed rule changes would allow personal injury plaintiffs to collect more for pain and suffering while arguably making those harder to prove.

According to the story in the February 28, 2014, Claims Journal, Kansas has not raised its cap on damages for pain and suffering since the 1980’s. Though the cap was found constitutional by the state’s highest court in 2012, the decision disapprovingly noted the long delay in raising the cap. The warning evidently was heard loud and clear. The story notes that the chairman of the state senate judiciary committee, Jeff King, considers it only a matter of time before the current cap, of $250,000, is overturned as being too low. That is why the current bill would increase the cap, in stages, to $350,000.
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garbage can dark - Copy.jpgA contract for the sale of goods: one business, or merchant, buys a part from another. They agree on quantity, price, and delivery. The Seller sends the Buyer a purchase order and delivers the goods, and the Buyer pays. It all sounds easy, but as we previously said, a lot can go wrong in a seemingly simple transaction.

What happens if the Buyer asks the Seller to recommend a part but it doesn’t work because it’s not the right one? What if the Buyer says he needs a part that meets certain specs, the Seller delivers what the Buyer asks for, but the Buyer asks for the wrong thing? What if the Seller says the part meets the specs but it doesn’t? Does the Buyer always have to pay for the part or can he return it, and does the Seller always have to take it back?

Some cases illustrate the complexities involved in a contract for the sale of goods better than others. Many times, you can find the most detailed application of the rules in a lower court opinion. One such case is Kabbalah Jeans, Inc. v. CN USA Int’l Corp., 26 Misc. 3d 1241(A), 907 N.Y.S.2d 438 (Sup. Ct. Kings County 2010). It’s instructive because it shows how rules designed to make things simple can sometimes make things difficult.

In a sale of goods dispute between merchants, the two most important, and meaningful, titles, are Buyer and Seller.
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1380348_winter_idyll.jpgIs there really a simple sales contract in New York? As we pointed out previously, the answer is no. Every business should know that there is always much more to even the simplest sales contract than meets the eye; unspoken promises included.

A simple sales contract, to most people, means nothing more than a contract to buy and sell goods. This does not have to be, and often is not, what most people think of as a full-blown written contract, which sets out in great detail what each party promises to do and is promised to receive in return. That, of course, would be best; but it’s not feasible or necessary.

Most sales contracts for the purchase of goods in New York fall under the special set of rules known as the Statute of Frauds, which govern sales of goods worth $500 or more. The only writing that requires is a simple note, memorandum, or correspondence, which states just the type and amount of the goods to be sold. It does not even necessarily have to include the price; oral evidence can be used to fill in the blanks. It can be enforced against the parties who signed the writing. It can be established through partial performance, even without any writing; i.e., if the Buyer accepts delivery of the goods, he can be forced to pay the agreed price for them. Likewise, if the Seller accepts the Buyer’s payment, the Seller can be forced to deliver the goods the Buyer has paid for. If between two merchants, the sales contract can be established where one of them sends the other a written confirmation of a contract, which often can be nothing more than an invoice, and the other fails to respond, or object, within ten days. See UCC 2-201.

Even with writings that record only the bare essentials of a sales contract, a New York business that sells goods can be liable for promises that it did not expressly make and are not specifically written anywhere. One, as we previously discussed, is the implied warranty of merchantability.
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1346000_bible_collage_1.jpgIs there really such a thing as a simple sales contract? In New York, at least, the answer is no.

As we previously discussed, a contract does not have to be written in order to be enforced. There can be an implied in fact contract; though it often is easier to prove the existence of a written contract than it is to prove a contract simply by showing that the parties acted like they had entered into a mutually binding agreement.

Most New York business owners place and fill orders for goods all the time. Often they do it just by placing, or receiving, a telephone call, with a purchase order, or at least an invoice, that follows. Most know that if the Buyer, or the Seller, does not keep its end of the bargain, the other could sue it for breach of contract. But what most may not realize is that the Seller also can be responsible for any promises or representations he might make regarding his particular item. Such an unwritten promise, in an unwritten contract, can be a warranty; if the Seller breaks it, he possibly can be liable for breach of warranty and, maybe, even fraud.

There are promises that go along with most sales transactions. For instance, when you buy a car, it often comes with a written warranty; if something breaks in the car within a specified time after you purchase it, the manufacturer often will fix it at little or no cost to you. Sometimes, a car company will voluntarily recall a large number of cars to pre-emptively fix a problem. Recently, for example, according to news reports, Toyota announced a large recall to fix an airbag problem in some of its models..

A warranty does not have to be written to be enforced; sometimes it does not even have to be spoken. A New York business, for instance, that normally sells a particular product, warrants, or promises, even without a writing, that the goods it sells are merchantable. This basically means that if a parts supplier sells widgets, it promises that the widgets it sells are acceptable widgets in the widget trade; that its widgets are of fair average quality as far as widgets go; that its widgets are fit to be used as widgets normally are; that its widgets are basically all of like kind and quality; that its widgets are adequately packaged and labeled as agreed; and that its widgets live up to whatever statements are on the packaging or labeling of the widgets. This is known as the warranty of merchantability. N.Y. U.C.C. Law § 2-314.
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