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What is the Parol Evidence Rule in Contract Interpretation?

A Philadelphia contract disputes lawyer can provide you with assistance in responding to a breach of contact accusation or responding to a dispute over what a contractual agreement requires. Contracts create private law, which means that the parties to a contractual agreement are bound by the terms of the agreement that they have made. If you find yourself a party to a contract in which a dispute has arisen, you need to understand how the legal system will govern what happens to the private law you and your contracting parties have created. 

One of the issues that can come up when a breach of contract accusation is made or when parties disagree on contract terms is how to interpret a contract and what the agreement terms are. This is especially important if there are any type of ambiguities or irregularities and the parties disagree on what the terms of the agreement mean. There are rules of contract interpretation that apply in these circumstances, including a rule called the parole evidence rule.

Because understanding contract law can be complicated and because many individuals and businesses do not know the legal rules and legal doctrines that apply to contract interpretation, it is important to get legal help from a Philadelphia contract disputes lawyer when a problem with a contract arises. Curley & Rothman, LLC can provide you with advice on contract interpretation and can explain how legal doctrines like the parol evidence rule can apply in your situation.

What is the Parol Evidence Rule in Contract Interpretation?

According to Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, the Parol Evidence Rule is: "A rule that governs the extent to which parties to a case may introduce into court evidence of a prior or contemporaneous agreement in order to modify, explain, or supplement the contract at issue."

The parol evidence rule addresses situations where parties to a written contract intended for that written agreement to be the "full and final expression of their bargain."  In other words, if you and your contracting parties believed that the contract that you wrote was the only agreement that would govern your relationship or govern a particular transaction, the parol evidence rule would apply in this situation.

The parol evidence rule makes clear that when a contract is intended to be the full and final expression of an agreement, any evidence related to other oral or written agreements is not considered in determining what each party's obligations are. Things which you talked about or may have agreed to, either in writing or orally, will not be considered legally binding terms of the contract. Only the written contract that you finally signed will be used to determine what each party's obligations are.

Any interpretation of the contract, or any questions regarding what your obligations are under the agreement, will need to be determined based solely on the final written and signed agreement between you and your contracting partners. You cannot bring in other contracts, or evidence of statements you made when negotiating on a contract, in order to make legal arguments or support positions.

How a Philadelphia Contract Disputes Lawyer Can Help You

The parol evidence rule can limit the kinds of evidence that you are able to present when you make an argument to the court about how a contract can be interpreted or what contractual obligations exist. Because you cannot introduce outside evidence about what your contract should require of you or the other party, you will need to make stronger legal arguments to support your position on contract interpretation based on the written terms of the agreement.  An experienced Philadelphia contract disputes lawyer can provide you with assistance in making sound arguments, based on admissible evidence, for your preferred contract interpretation.

An attorney can help you in other ways when a contract disputes arises and there are questions about what your obligations are, or what the other party's obligations are. Attorneys can advise you on alternatives to litigation, such as mediation or arbitration, as a method of resolving contract disputes. We can also provide you with invaluable assistance during court litigation in arguing, based on the written terms of your existing contract, that your preferred interpretation of the agreement is the appropriate one.

Contact a Philadelphia Contract Disputes Lawyer Today

Curley & Rothman, LLC has extensive experience providing assistance to clients in addressing issues related to contract interpretation. We understand legal doctrines applicable to contracts and can explain how the parole evidence rule and other rules of contract law apply to your case. Give us a call today at 610-834-8819 or contact us  us to talk with a Philadelphia contract disputes lawyer to find out more about the ways in which we can assist you.