Is an Unwritten Contract Enforceable in Louisiana?

Jan 20, 2021

What does Louisiana law say about an unwritten contract? Many states have strict rules about the types of contracts that must be in writing to be enforceable.

For example, contracts to purchase land must often be in writing. This is known as the “statute of frauds,” intended to prevent fraud between the parties to the contract.

Louisiana is a little different. However, laws exist in Louisiana that are designed to avoid fraud and to promote certainty. Several Louisiana statutes work together to achieve these goals.

Louisiana Civil Code Article 1839

The most significant law requiring written contracts is Louisiana Civil Code article 1839, which provides that contracts to transfer “immovable property” must generally be in writing. 

Immovable property includes the following:

  • Vacant land and real estate
  • Timber and mineral rights
  • Buildings
  • Docks and piers
  • Shops and warehouses

Sales of immovable property must generally “be made by authentic act or by act under private signature.” 

To meet the “authentic act” requirement, the buyer and seller most often sign a contract in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public, all of whom also sign the document to “authenticate” that document. Thus, an unwritten contract may not be enforceable in this situation.

Louisiana Civil Code Article 1847 and Louisiana Revised Statute 23:731

Additional contracts of note that must be in writing to be enforceable are set forth in Louisiana Civil Code article 1847 and Louisiana Revised Statute 23:731:

  • The “promise to pay the debt of a third person”
  • The “promise to pay a debt extinguished by prescription”
  • Wage assignments

Louisiana law specifically provides that if the contract is legally required to be in writing, it cannot be proved through other means unless it “has been destroyed, lost, or stolen.”

In other words, witness testimony or other evidence cannot establish that a contract existed if it is one of the types of contracts that must, by law, be in writing. In these situations, an unwritten contract would not hold up in court.

Again, the legislative intent was to avoid fraud and promote certainty.

Wright Gray can help you figure out the validity of an unwritten contract

The law that applies to contracts can also affect you significantly in litigation. Contract law in Louisiana, including settlements, is complex and warrants an evaluation by an experienced personal attorney. The attorneys at Wright Gray can advise you about the laws applicable to a written or unwritten contract. For a free case evaluation, contact our experienced attorneys.

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