It is a long-established legal principal that you can form a verbal contract. We do this every day, buying some vegetables at the market or paying a babysitter. There is no limit on the scope of what can be agreed, but more complex transactions are difficult to recall with any realistic degree of accuracy and where the value of the agreement is high, you would expect that the interested parties would also want a high degree of certainty.

It is also a long-established legal principal that anyone forming a contract must have the capacity to do so. You cannot, for example, form a binding contract with someone who you know to be drunk. The attached article describes a case that apparently hinged on a conversation in a pub several years prior. Mr Blue argued that he reached a binding verbal agreement with Mr Ashley during this conversation. Ashley claims if he said anything he was joking  (as supported by the witnesses), in a pub where they “consumed a lot of alcohol”. 

Rather surprisingly perhaps, Mr Blue incurred substantial legal costs to bring the case. If he genuinely believed that a contract had been formed in the pub, certainly one hoping to collect £15 million, you'd expect he would immediately follow it up with an email confirmation, hopefully with a view to a very clear and detailed binding contract. Without that, you run the risk that the party you believed you contracted with will deny that there was any agreement or indeed if there was, what the precise terms are.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that if it’s important to you or complex, get it in writing and if it’s valuable business to you, have a proper contract.

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