In Massachusetts, can I enforce a verbal contract?
I gave $5,000 to a friend from out of state who promised to utilize the money for a business investment which he never did. The agreement was that he would pay it back if things didn’t work out. He has not paid me one dime but continues to promise that he will. It’s now been over a year. Unfortunately, I do not consider him my friend any longer. I want to sue him for the return of the money. There was no written contract (stupid on my part) but there was a verbal contract, one which I have witnesses for. Also the back of the check stated that with endorsement of such check, he was promising to invest the money in said business. Help, please. I am a single mother with four children.
First of all, before suing this friend you should assure yourself that the courts here in Massachusetts can assert authority–or what is known in legalese as “jurisdiction”–over him. Courts have jurisdiction over persons from out of state only when they have had certain “minimum contacts” with Massachusetts. The question of whether someone has had minimum contacts is determined by, among other things, the degree to which the person was in the state physically, took advantage of the laws of this state to do business, used phone, e-mail, etc. to communicate with persons in this state. Although I don’t know all of the facts pertaining to your relationship with this person, if all you did was to send a check to the person based on his verbal representations, that would not be enough to constitute minimum contacts, and any judgment you might obtain here in Massachusetts would likely not be honored by the state in which you would have to enforce that judgment. You might consider as an alternative hiring an attorney in the state where the defendant lives, and bringing suit in that state.