The statute of frauds does not render the oral contract void. It is valid for all purposes except that of suit. Since the contract is one which cannot be enforced, no action for damages will lie for its breach. The statute of frauds was enacted to prevent fraud and injustice, not to foster or encourage it, and courts will, so far as possible, refuse to allow it to be used as a shield to protect fraud and as a means to enable one to take advantage of his own wrong. Where it is sought to enforce an oral contract for the sale of an interest in real estate on the grounds that it has been performed by the party seeking to enforce it, it must appear that a failure to enforce would amount to a fraud against the party. Absent compelling equitable considerations, an oral contract within the statute of frauds will not be specifically enforced. Part performance of an oral contract will not take the case out of statute where the performing party can be compensated in money. Payment of the purchase price alone is not sufficient part performance to take a case out of the statute of frauds. Since the money can be recovered back by action, no fraud will be accomplished if the oral contract is not enforced. Delivery of possession of the land alone without the making of improvements is not sufficient to take a case out of the application of the statute of frauds.
Appellant seller brought an action for the specific performance of an oral contract for the sale of farmland. Appellee buyers filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that appellant was not entitled to specific performance because of the application of the statute of frauds. The district court granted appellees’ motion. Appellant appealed the district court’s judgment. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
Did equitable considerations prevent the statute of frauds from being asserted as a defense to the action for specific performance of an oral contract for the sale of farmland?
Under all the facts and circumstances, equity did not require the statute of frauds to be removed as a defense to this action for specific performance of the oral contract. There was no claim that there was any relationship of trust or confidence between the parties. There were no allegations or evidence of false misrepresentation of existing facts. Thus, appellee seller was entitled to the return of his check on the basis of quantum meruit or unjust enrichment.