Hickey v. Green

14 Mass. App. Ct. 671, 442 N.E.2d 37 (1982)



A contract for the transfer of an interest in land may be specifically enforced notwithstanding failure to comply with the statute of frauds if it is established that the party seeking enforcement, in reasonable reliance on the contract and on the continuing assent of the party against whom enforcement is sought, has so changed his position that injustice can be avoided only by specific enforcement.


Plaintiff orally agreed to buy defendant's house. Plaintiff stated to defendant that his intention was to sell his home and build on defendant's lot. However, after plaintiff had sold his home, defendant told plaintiff that she no longer intended to sell her property to him. Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking specific performance and defendant argued that relief was barred by the statute of frauds. Judgement was awarded to the plaintiff. 


Is an oral contract to buy real property be made enforceable?




There can be no doubt (a) that Mrs. Green made the promise on which the Hickeys so promptly relied, and also (b) she, nearly as promptly, but not promptly enough, repudiated it because she had a better opportunity. The stipulated facts require the conclusion that in equity Mrs. Green's conduct cannot be condoned. This is not a case where either party is shown to have contemplated the negotiation of a purchase and sale agreement. If a written agreement had been expected, even by only one party, or would have been natural (because of the participation by lawyers or otherwise), a different situation might have existed. It is a permissible inference from the agreed facts that the rapid sale of the Hickeys' house was both appropriate and expected. These are not circumstances where negotiations fairly can be seen as inchoate. 

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