Virginia Statute of Frauds: Va. Code Ann. § 11-2 – a Lawyer’s Equity

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The General Assembly enacted the Statute of Frauds, making certain oral contracts unenforceable. It explicitly required a contract be “in writing and signed by the party to be charged” in enumerated cases. Va. Code Ann. § 11-2.

For well over a century however, the Commonwealth’s Courts have relaxed that strict statutory requirement of a signed writing to avoid manifest injustice. Specifically, Courts have applied the equitable doctrine of partial performance to the Statute, ameliorating its harsh consequences. E.g., Runion v. Helvestine, 256 Va. 1, 6-8 (1998); Glovier v. Dingus, 173 Va. 268, 280-283 (1939); Clarke v. Collins, 73 Va. Cir. 12, 17 (Lynchburg Oct. 4, 2006); Grant v. Grant, 67 Va. Cir. 412, 414 (Roanoke Jun. 15, 2005); Net Connection v. GWBEH, L.L.C., 67 Va. Cir. 150, 152 (Fairfax Mar. 8, 2005); Fauntleroy v. Borden, 63 Va. Cir. 144, 145-147 (Richmond Sep. 23, 2003).

Following Wright v. Puckett, 63 Va. (22 Gratt) 370 (1872), the Virginia Supreme Court reiterated in Glovier and again in Runion. “[T]he principles upon which courts of equity have avoided the statute of frauds, upon the ground of part performance of a parol agreement, are now as well settled as any of the acknowledged doctrines of equity jurisprudence. From the numerous decisions on the subject the following principles may be extracted and briefly stated as follows: 1st. The parol agreement relied on must be certain and definite in its terms. 2nd. The acts proved in part performance must refer to, result from, or be made in pursuance of the agreement proved. 3rd. The agreement must have been so far executed that a refusal of full execution would operate a fraud upon the party, and place him in a situation which does not lie in compensation. Where these three things concur, a court of equity will decree specific execution.” 256 Va. at 6; 173 Va. at 280. Fauntleroy, 63 Va. Cir. at 145. Therefore, grants of demurrers were reversed inGlovier and Runion.