Filing a complaint is one of the first steps taken when filing a lawsuit. It is also one of the most important. The dangers of conflicting allegations and exhibits attached to the complaint is evidenced in one recent case.
According to the plaintiff in Gagnon v. Schickel, two parties agreed to buy real property together and share in its costs and profits. But, the defendant never recorded a deed transfering half of the property even though the plaintiff had paid for half of the purchase price, utilities, taxes and improvements.
The plaintiff attached a copy of a letter to the complaint, which plaintiff alleged was evidence of a conditional gift – the condition being that defendant must make plaintiff co-owner of the property. But, the letter referred to the plaintiff’s payment of half the purchase price as “a bona fide gift with no obligation expected or implied[.]” Therefore, the trial court refused to enforce the alleged “oral agreement” and the appellate court affirmed, leaving the Plaintiff high and dry and the defendant with everything.
According to the appellate court, the letter contradicted an essential term of the alleged oral contract, and where a complaint’s allegations and an exhibit conflict, the exhibit controls. Thus, because of the way the plaintiff pled his case which conflicted with the exhibit attached to his complaint, the court held that the plaintiff had gifted his interest in the property to defendant.
Before you sign a contract or file a lawsuit on your own, you should contact an experienced attorney. Or else, you could be left with nothing, like the plaintiff in the Gagnon case.
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