Law Office of Isaac J. Mass -- Greenfield, Massachusuetts
_ Sometimes a hand shake is not enough, but sometimes it is.  In 1934, when the owner of Cann’s Cabin a high quality seafood restaurant in Revere, Massachusetts got into business with a beer pouring buddy times got tough.  Just a year after the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was signed the owner let the buddy start pouring beer at his restaurant.  Business was good at Cann’s and the two decided to build a new larger restaurant with a new tap room.  Then tragedy struck, the Cann’s owner was in a horrible accident and spent three months in the hospital.  During the Great Depression, three months in the hospital meant that the owner went bankrupt.  His buddy agreed to help him out and but the business assets, including leased real estate where they were building a new restaurant, back at the bankruptcy sale and let the owner pay him back when he recovered.  A third party advised them to put it in writing, but the buddy responded that they “trusted each other and had begun business with a hand shake and were content to go on in the same way, and Cann said he was satisfied."

Well the buddy kept part of his word and bought all the assets at the sale for $400.  When it came time to give them to the owner, however, he changed his mind.  The buddy said, "was through being Santa Claus.”  Usually a contract for the sale of land requires a written instrument and a hand shake is not enough.  Here though in Cann v. Barry, 293 Mass. 313 (1936), the court found that the buddy had a fiduciary relationship and had defrauded his business partner had defrauded him.  In this case the hand shake held up.  Still the best advice is to get it in writing.  You never know when your beer buddy is going to turn into Bad Santa.


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