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The work has been done, but was there a contract in place?

by Andrew Laird

Andrew Laird (2013) 8.1 CLInt 34

Time pressures on construction and engineering projects are relentless. Contractual negotiations sometimes continue even as the first sod needs to be turned. Normally contracts are formally executed at some point but sometimes they are not. Often a lack of formal execution evaporates as an issue because both parties acknowledge the existence of a contract. Sometimes, however, a party asserts that the relationship never reached contractual status, frequently as a precursor to a claim for a quantum meruit. With this in mind, a recent Victorian Supreme Court decision in the matter ofSkilled Group Ltd v CSR Viridian Pty Ltd & Anor1 will be of interest to readers around the world. It considered the following important issues:

• when the existence of a contract can be inferred in the absence of a signed agreement; and

• whether a party can be estopped from denying the existence of a binding contract in a particular form where it is found that a contract does not exist.

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