Contract disputes are complicated. Any legal disagreement between parties will be resolved primarily by looking at the actual language contained within the written document. Outside evidence—also called “extrinsic evidence” or “parol evidence”—can only be used in very narrow circumstances. Here, our Clearwater business litigation attorney explains the most important things to know about the parol evidence rule and the role it plays in contract disputes in Florida.
Know Your Terms: What is Parol Evidence?
As explained by the Legal Information Institute, parol evidence is “any agreement that is not contained within the written contract.” In other words, parol evidence refers to verbal or written statements not included in a final written contract, made prior to or during its formation. It is often presented to alter, explain, or supplement the terms of a written agreement. The parol evidence rule is a principle in contract law that bars parties from presenting parol evidence to contradict, modify, or add to the terms of a completed written contract.
Parol Evidence is Inadmissible in Florida If Contract Language is Unambiguous
In Florida, the courts strictly apply the parol evidence rule when the language of a contract is clear and unambiguous. The goal is to preserve the sanctity of written contracts and encourage their proper use. If the contract’s language clearly and directly communicates the agreement between parties, courts will generally prohibit the use of parol evidence to modify its terms. Florida law maintains that a well-drafted contract, clear in intent, is the best representation of what was agreed upon. In the case of Prime Homes, Inc. v. Pine Lake, LLC, a Florida District Court of Appeal clearly articulated the standard that the parol evidence is generally not admissible in contract disputes.
Outside Evidence May Be Used to Clear Up a Dispute Over Incomplete or Ambiguous Contract
While the parol evidence rule aims to safeguard the sanctity of written contracts, it is not absolute. Indeed, exceptions are acknowledged in Florida law when contracts are incomplete, ambiguous, or if there is a question of fraud, mistake, or duress. If a contract lacks clarity or doesn’t address all the agreed-upon terms, parol evidence can be admitted to elucidate or supplement it. In effect, the exceptions permit parties to bring in additional evidence—this being things like emails, text messages, or even verbal promises—in order to interpret the true meaning of the contract. An experienced Florida business litigation lawyer can help you navigate these challenges.
Set Up a Confidential Consultation With a Clearwater, FL Contract Law Attorney
At Clearwater Business Law, our Florida contract lawyer has the professional skills and expertise that you can count on. If you have any questions about the parol evidence rule in Florida, we are here to help. Give us a phone all at (727) 785-5100 or contact us online for a completely confidential initial consultation. From our law office in Clearwater, we provide contract law services in Pinellas County throughout the surrounding region in Florida.