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What Evidence Is Admissible in a Contract Dispute?

Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. June 7, 2023

Man tearing contract agreement in officeIf you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly entered into several contracts. Hopefully, there are very few issues that arise with these contracts. In some cases, though, you may have to address a contract dispute. The best way to address these concerns is to work with a reputable attorney who understands the details of business and contract law and has experience helping individuals and businesses move forward. 

At our firm—Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C.—you’ll get first-class legal representation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and throughout Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County. Give our attorneys a call today to schedule a consultation and start discussing your options.  

Common Contract Disputes

Because contracts can cover such a wide variety of business agreements, there are several different ways a dispute may come about: 

  • Consumer contract: These typically involve an end consumer who purchases a product under warranty. 

  • Commercial leases: This can include disputes about rent, maintenance or obligation to repair, or early termination. 

  • Partnership disputes: If you own a business with one or more other parties, disputes surrounding compensation, workload expectations, buy/sell agreements, or how profits will be handled can come into play. 

  • Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) Disputes: Many employees or businesses are required to sign an NDA per the terms of their employment contract. If it’s discovered that someone has shared or leaked information to a competitor, you may need to take legal action. 

  • General Material Breach: These can happen in a number of areas and occur when one party in a contract fails to carry out their portion of the agreement.   

Four Types of Evidence 

When presenting your case in a business dispute, it’s important to understand exactly what type of evidence you can use to support your case. 

  • Testimonial: This is generally an oral statement given by the parties involved in the contract. 

  • Documentary: This typically refers to the contract itself or any addendums, but can also include other legally binding documents connected with the contract. 

  • Demonstrative: This covers any evidence that’s not considered testimonial and may include photos or videos that show a contract violation. 

  • Real: This is the contract itself. 

General Rules of Admissibility

In any legal dispute, it’s essential to know the rules surrounding admissible evidence. For most cases, the general rules of admissibility state that evidence must be relevant, material, and competent.  

  • Relevance means that any evidence should be able to prove or disprove a disputed fact. 

  • Materialism means the evidence must be clearly linked to the facts in question.  

  • Competency means the evidence is deemed reliable and has been adequately authenticated. 

The Parol Evidence Rule

The parol evidence rule is also called the “outside evidence rule” because it restricts any evidence brought forward that’s “outside” what was written in the original contract. This protects both parties from being held liable for things they didn’t explicitly agree to in the contract. For example, if a contract is agreed upon and signed by both parties and afterward they discuss different terms but didn’t include these in a contract revision or addendum, then you can’t legally bring this forward as evidence in a legal dispute. However, as with all rules, there are some exceptions where outside evidence may be admitted: 

  • If it’s used to clarify an unclear or ambiguous section of the contract 

  • If it can prove that one party was deceived or deceitfully influenced to sign the contract 

  • If there are conflicting terms in the contract 

Understand Your Next Steps

You don’t need to go through a contract dispute on your own. If you’re in the Philadelphia region or anywhere in Philadelphia County, contact us at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. for help with all your business and contract law needs.