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  1. #1
    gmb2002 is offline Junior Member
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    Promissory Estoppel

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Arizona


    Case Background - Can Promissory Estoppel Apply in this case?

    On around January of 2011, a seller of a property agreed to sell his property to us, in the Philippines for USD 15,000 to be paid in full by end of January 2014. The agreement (in email) was for us, the Buyer, to pay the full amount of USD15000 by the end of January 2014 in the United States and upon full payment the property deed will be transferred to us. The seller did not want to issue a written contract because of real estate law concerns. In lieu of the contract, I informed him that I will retain all email communications for future use to serve as record of our agreement.


    On January 05, 2012 we received an email from this seller of his intention to breach the agreement. The seller claimed that the property was previously undervalued and now cost USD 45,000. The seller claimed that since there is no money exchange on hand and no down payment and no papers signed, the Seller is still bound to change their mind depending on circumstances they are in since the deal is not consummated yet. He said the deal is off. Just recently I received an email from the seller that he will start the eviction process to the occupant of the property (my wife and her parents) this Sunday.


    My wife and her parents lives in the property rent free since 1996. It was offered as a residence to them right after it was purchased by the seller in 1996. The seller is my wife's auntie and uncle. When I went on vacation in January 2011, the seller approached me and my wife (through phone then subsequently through emails) regarding their intention to sell the house to us. We were told that a prospective buyer in the US is willing to purchase the property for USD 24,000 but since my wife and her parents lives in the property, they decided to give us a chance to purchase the property.The negotiation and agreement to sell the property was made by series of emails that started in January 2011 until the seller and I reached an agreement to buy the property in the amount of USD 15,000 to be paid in full by January 2014. All email communication regarding this transaction were retained in case the Seller change his mind as as was the case now).

    Both the seller and I are US citizen (the seller lives in California).

    I have several questions about this case. Can you please give me your opinion on the following-

    1) Was there a real agreement or a promise between the Seller and I?
    2) Was the agreement or alternatively promise using email enforceable?
    3) Did a breach in the agreement really occurred?
    4) If a breach did occur, what are my legal remedies?
    5) Can emails be presented as evidence in court without violating any privacy issue?
    6) How soon can I sue for claim or damages?
    7) Can I sue simultaneously in the US and in the Philippines?
    7) Can the Seller counter sue? In what manner?
    8) How long does it take to get judgment for this type of case?
    9) How much will I spend for this case? Retainer fee, hourly, etc?
    10) Can a promissory estoppel apply in this case?
    11) Can I sue for at least USD 30,000 (calculation: USD45000-USD15000 = USD30000) plus attorneys, interest, and other applicable charges?
  2. #2
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    1) Was there a real agreement or a promise between the Seller and I?
    The law will be in the situs of the property. (Even if it is litigated in the U.S.) You need to ask an attorney knowledgeable in the law of the Philippines.

    Even if the law was in the U.S., no you did not have an agreement which would overcome the statute of frauds. As to promissory estoppel, you can only sue for your damages from reasonable reliance on the statement. There could be a valid argument you couldn't reasonably rely on anything but a signed contract for the sale of land. The court will decide. But,

    Even if it was U.S. law,
    And, even if the court found you reasonably relied,
    I don't see any damages from the reliance.
  3. #3
    gmb2002 is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you so much for your reply but I have difficulty figuring out what a reasonable reliance is when applying the principle of promissory estoppel. Since we both agreed in the case that he will sell me the property, I relied on that promise to actually spend reasonable amount of investment renovating the place. If I knew that he will walk away from the promise, I would not have made the renovation. Do you think it will be difficult for the court to grant me justice by requiring the seller to give back what I spent?

    My framework of reasoning is this - He made a promise. We relied on the promise - that is why we took action and spent money doing renovation and even changed our lifestyle to be able to save enough money to pay because we thought he would honor the promise or agreement. Yet broke his promise. Are we not entitled to receive justice?

    And how would an agreement be measured? He offered the property to sell and be paid in two years. I accepted it. All the communications and agreements were captured in email. Why would that not constitute an agreement? And if proof if needed, whether there is an agreement, why would the emails be not enough?

    I hope you can help me understand better.
    Last edited by gmb2002; 02-29-2012 at 12:14 AM.
  4. #4
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmb2002 View Post
    Thank you so much for your reply but I have difficulty figuring out what a reasonable reliance is when applying the principle of promissory estoppel. Since we both agreed in the case that he will sell me the property, I relied on that promise to actually spend reasonable amount of investment renovating the place. If I knew that he will walk away from the promise, I would not have made the renovation. Do you think it will be difficult for the court to grant me justice by requiring the seller to give back what I spent?

    My framework of reasoning is this - He made a promise. We relied on the promise - that is why we took action and spent money doing renovation and even changed our lifestyle to be able to save enough money to pay because we thought he would honor the promise or agreement. Yet broke his promise. Are we not entitled to receive justice?

    And how would an agreement be measured? He offered the property to sell and be paid in two years. I accepted it. All the communications and agreements were captured in email. Why would that not constitute an agreement? And if proof if needed, whether there is an agreement, why would the emails be not enough?

    I hope you can help me understand better.
    **A: this is site for US law only.
  5. #5
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    In the U.S. generally, the sale of land requires a writing signed by the party to be charged. If you have a promise from someone they will sell you land, the argument is you cannot rely on the promise unless you have the writing, because it is unreasonable to think something other than a signed writing would transfer the property. In the Philippines, I have no idea.
    Do you think it will be difficult for the court to grant me justice by requiring the seller to give back what I spent?
    You'll have to hire a lawyer knowledgeable in Philippine law, or do a lot of study on your own, to know.

    As to the rest, same answers. U.S. law only.

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