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Are contracts valid if signed when drunk?

May 23, 2017

People routinely make incorrect decisions when they’re under the influence of alcohol. In some instances, an intoxicated person may sign a contract while under the influence only to later regret entering into the agreement. Fortunately, Florida law often grants recourse to individuals who sign a contract while intoxicated, and the first step toward maximizing your chances of success in court is hiring a Fort Lauderdale contract attorney to assist you with your dispute.

Elements of a written agreement in Broward County

Generally, an agreement must meet a few specific criteria before Broward court will consider the agreement to be a legally-binding contract. First, an offer must be made by one party to another. Next, the other party must accept the offer. Both parties must then have a “meeting of the minds” and agree to the material terms. The agreement must also call for the exchange of something of value or “consideration.” Finally, the contract must not involve an illegality, and the terms must be definite and clear enough to enable a court to sufficiently enforce the agreement. If one of the parties is intoxicated, courts will typically find that a meeting of the minds did not occur because a person who has been drinking may not be able to sufficiently understand the material terms of a contract.

Proving intoxication created impairment

Once a court finds that the an otherwise valid contract was entered into during the time frame in which one of the parties claims to have been intoxicated, the party who alleges intoxication must demonstrate to the court reasons the contract should not be enforced. Typically, the party must show that his or her intoxication was severe enough to create impairment. The party would then argue that the intoxication-induced impairment caused him or her to lack the required capacity to enter into a legally-binding contract. If the court finds that the intoxicated party lacked capacity, the judge may rule the contract voidable, meaning the intoxicated party may avoid the contract if he or she chooses to do so.

Recourse for the other party’s lawyer

In some instances, when one party is seeking to avoid a contract by claiming intoxication, the other party may wish to enforce the contract to avoid suffering a loss. The party who wishes to enforce the contract may file a quasi-contractual claim in the interest of seeking a more equitable remedy. This type of claim allows parties who acted in good faith and performed as though a contract existed to be compensated for certain losses that may result from the contract no longer being enforced.

Possible criminal liability

Sometimes one party may deliberately attempt to create a contract with an intoxicated or otherwise impaired person. If someone is found to have been attempting to take advantage of another party’s intoxicated state, the party who attempted to induce the intoxicated individual may face criminal charges.

Those who suspect they may have entered into a contract while lacking the ability to understand the terms of a contract in Hollwyood, Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Broward County should contact a contract lawyer with a track record of successfully handling disputes regarding signed documents. While sinister intent on the other party’s behalf is not a requirement for filing an action in court, there are also cases in which the impaired party is in dire need of protection from a party who deliberately exploited the impairment. Regardless, a contract dispute lawyer can determine whether the circumstances surrounding a contract are fair and ensure that your rights are protected.