Law School Case Brief
Browning v. Poirier - 165 So. 3d 663 (Fla. 2015)
Judging from the time an oral contract of indefinite duration is made, if the contract's full performance is possible within one year from the inception of the contract, then it falls outside the statute of frauds.
Petitioner Howard Browning and Respondent Lynn Anne Poirier were in a romantic relationship. In 1993, the parties entered into an oral agreement in which they each agreed to purchase lottery tickets and to equally share in the proceeds of any winning lottery tickets. In 2007, Poirier purchased a winning ticket and collected $1 million minus deductions for taxes. When Browning requested half of the proceeds, Poirier refused, and Browning filed the underlying suit for breach of an oral contract and unjust enrichment. However, Poirier denied the existence of any oral agreement to split lottery proceeds and raised the defense of the statute of frauds. At the close of Browning's case, Poirier moved for a directed verdict on two counts in Browning's complaint, and the trial court granted the directed verdict on both counts. Specifically, the trial court granted a directed verdict on Browning's claim for breach of an oral contract, finding that the action was barred by the statute of frauds. Additionally, the trial court granted a directed verdict on Browning's claim for unjust enrichment, holding that a party seeking to enforce an express contract cannot simultaneously disavow the contract and seek equitable relief in quasi-contract. The trial court entered final judgment in favor of Poirier. The Fifth District affirmed the judgment regarding the count for the breach of the alleged oral contract, but reversed that part of the judgment regarding the count for unjust enrichment.
Did the oral agreement between Browning and Poirier fall outside the statute of frauds?
The Court held that the oral agreement between Browning and Poirier to share in the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket they purchased fell outside the statute of frauds because no time was fixed by the parties for the performance of the agreement. Because no time was fixed, there was a possibility in law and in fact that full performance of the agreement could have been completed before the expiration of a year at the time the contract was made, and either of the parties could have ended the agreement at any time.
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