法律合同的构成要件
What Constitutes a Legal Contract?
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2019-07-27 22:44
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火星译客

A contract is a legally enforceable agreement signed between two or more parties. It may be oral or written. A contract is essentially a set of promises. Typically, each party promises to do something for the other in exchange for a benefit.

合同是双方或多方之间签订的具有法律效力的协议。合同既可口头,也可书面。合同本质上是一系列承诺。通常,各方都承诺为对方做事以换取利益。

Required Characteristics 

必要特征

To constitute a legal contract, an agreement must have all of the following 5 characteristics:

协议若要成为法律合同,以下五项特征须皆具备:

  • Legal purpose. A contract must have a legal purpose to be enforceable. For example, Steve hires Paul to kill Susan. Steve drafts an agreement outlining Paul's responsibilities, namely to acquire a gun and shoot Susan in the head. The agreement also specifies the amount Steve will pay Paul once Susan is dead. A contract of murder for hire is illegal. If Paul fails to fulfill his obligations under the agreement, Steve will have no recourse against Paul. The agreement Steve has drafted is unenforceable.
  • Mutual Agreement. All parties to the contract must have reached a "meeting of the minds." That is, one party must have extended an offer to which the other parties have agreed. For example, Jim signs a contract with Tom's Tree Trimming. The contract outlines the scope of the work Tom will perform on Jim's property. Jim and Tom have a mutual agreement regarding the work that will be done.
  • Consideration. Each party to the contract must agree to give up something of value in exchange for a benefit. For example, you hire an independent contractor to repave your driveway. You and the paving contractor sign an agreement in which you promise to pay a sum of money in exchange for the paving work. Both you and the contractor have agreed to give up something of value. You have agreed to pay money, and the contractor has agreed to perform the paving work.
  • Competent Parties. The parties to a contract must be competent. That is, they must be of sound mind, of legal age, and unencumbered by drugs or alcohol. If you enter into a contract with a minor or an insane person, the contract will not be enforced.
  • Genuine Assent. All parties must engage in the agreement freely. A contract may not be enforced if mistakes have been made by one or more parties. Likewise, a contract may be voided if one party has committed fraud or exerted undue influence over another. For example, you sign a contract in which you agree to sell your house to your next-door neighbor for $1. When you signed the contract, your neighbor was pointing a gun at your head. Clearly, you made the agreement under duress, so the contract is not valid.
  • 合法的目的。合同必须具有合法的目的才可强制执行。例如,史蒂夫雇保罗杀害苏珊。史蒂夫起草了一份协议,概述保罗的职责,即弄到一把枪朝苏珊的头部射击。协议还规定了一旦苏珊死亡史蒂夫将向保罗支付的金额。雇佣凶杀合同是违法的。如果保罗未能履行其在协议项下的义务,史蒂夫将对保罗无追索权。史蒂夫起草的协议是不可强制执行的。
  • 相互同意。合同各方必须达成“合意”。也就是说,一方提出的要约, 其他方必然已经同意。例如,吉姆和汤姆就树木修剪签订一份合同, 合同概述了汤姆在吉姆的林地将进行工作的范围。就将要进行的工作,吉姆和汤姆已经相互同意。
  • 对价。合同的每一方都必须同意放弃有价值的东西以换取利益。例如,你雇用独立的承包商来重新铺设车道。你和铺路承包商签署一份协议,在协议中,你承诺支付一笔钱以换取铺路工作。你和承包商都已同意放弃有价值的东西。你已同意支付款项,而承包商也已同意进行铺路工作。
  • 各方有行为能力。合同的各方必须具备行为能力。也就是说,他们必须具有健全的心智,达到法定年龄,而且没有服用毒品或酒精。若你与未成年人或精神病人订立合同,则合同将不可强制执行。
  • 真正的同意(有行为能力的各方完全同意)。各方必须自由地参与协议。一方或多方犯有过错的,合同不得强制执行。同样, 一方犯有欺诈行为或对另一方施加不当影响的,则合同无效。例如,你签订一份合同,你同意以1美元的价格把房子卖给隔壁邻居。当你签合同时,你的邻居用枪指着你的头。很明显,你是在胁迫下达成协议的,因此, 合同是无效的。

Some types of contracts must be in writing. An example is a contract in which you agree to sell your property to someone else. Real estate sales contracts must be written in order to be enforceable.

有些类型的合同必须采用书面形式。你同意将自己的房产售卖给他人的合同就是其中一例。为使合同可强制执行, 必须撰写不动产销售合同。

Bilateral or Unilateral 

双边或单边

Most contracts are bilateral. This means that each party has made a promise to the other. When Jim signed the contract with Tom's Tree Trimming, he promised to pay the contractor a specified sum of money once the job was completed. Tom, in turn, made a promise to Jim to complete the work described in the agreement.

大多数合同都是双边的。这意味着每一方都对另一方做出了承诺。当吉姆和汤姆就汤姆修剪树木签订合同时,吉姆承诺一旦工作完成,他将付给承包商(汤姆)一定金额的钱款。反过来,汤姆向吉姆承诺完成协议中所述的工作。

In a unilateral contract, one party makes a promise in exchange for an act by the other party. Insurance policies are unilateral contracts. When you buy liability insurance or any other type of policy, you pay a premium (an act) in exchange for the insurer's promise to pay future claims.

在单方合同中,一方作出承诺以换取另一方的行为。保险单是单方合同。当你购买责任保险或任何其他类型的保单时,你支付保险费(一种行为),以换取保险公司承诺支付未来的索赔。

Breach of Contract 

违约

If one party fails to fulfill his or her duties under the agreement, that party has breached the contract. For example, suppose that you've hired a masonry contractor to construct a brick patio outside your restaurant. You pay the contractor half of the agreed-upon price upfront. The contractor completes about a quarter of the work and then stops. He keeps promising he'll return and complete the job but never does. By failing to fulfill his promise, the contractor has breached the contract.

一方未能履行协议项下的义务的,则该方违约。例如,假设你雇了一个砖石建筑承包商, 在自己餐馆外建造一个砖砌露台。你预付给承包商协议价格的一半。承包商完成了约四分之一的工程量后停工。他一直承诺他会回来完成这项工程, 但从未兑现。由于没有履行诺言,承包商违反了合同。

If one party breaches a contract, the other party may suffer a financial loss. In the previous example, you paid for 50% of the work but only received half that much. You have several options for obtaining compensation:

如果一方违约,则对方可能会遭受经济损失。在前例中,你支付了50%的工程款,但工程仅完工四分之一。你获得赔偿的方案如下: 

  1. Sue for Damages. You may sue the contractor for damages. For example, you might sue for the cost of hiring another contractor to finish the job plus the costs you have incurred due to the delay.
  2. Specific Performance. You can compel the contractor to complete the work required by the contract.
  3. Other Remedies. If the contractor tricked or forced you into signing the contract, you might convince a court to terminate the agreement or amend its terms.

1. 起诉要求赔偿损失。你可以起诉承包商要求赔偿损失。例如,你或许因工期延误招致的费用以及由此需雇用其他承包商来完成工作的费用而提起诉讼。  

2. 特定履行(也称实际履行)。你可以迫使承包商完成合同要求的工作。

3. 其他补救措施。如果承包商欺骗或强迫你签署合同,则你可以说服法院终止协议或修改条款。

Failure to fulfill the terms of an insurance policy may constitute a breach of contract. An insurance policy imposes obligations on both you and your insurer. An insurer has an obligation to pay covered claims. If the insurer reneges on this duty, you may sue the insurer for breach of contract. Likewise, you have an obligation to cooperate with your insurer when it investigates a claim. If you file a claim and then refuse to cooperate with the insurer's investigation, your refusal to cooperate may constitute a breach of the insurance contract.

未能履行保险单的条款可构成违约。保险单对你和你的保险公司都强加了义务。保险公司有义务支付承保的索赔。如果保险公司背弃此项职责,则你可以起诉保险公司违约。同样,当它调查索赔情况时, 你有义务与之合作。如果你提出索赔,然后拒绝配合保险公司的调查,则拒绝配合可构成保险合同违约。

Your insurer may rely on your breach of the policy as a basis for denying the claim.

你的保险公司可能以保单违约为依据, 拒绝你提出的索赔。

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