This is an extract of our The Parol Evidence Rule Textbook Summary document, which we sell as part of our Contracts 2 Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of New South Wales students.
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Textbook Summary The Parol Evidence Rule
Where contracts are oral, the court may consider all relevant evidence (what was said when the contract was made, nature of the industry etc.) When parties record their agreement in writing, evidence admissible for identifying/construing terms is limited by the parol evidence rule (Goss v Lord Nugent (1833). The parole evidence rule has two parts: o Preventing extrinsic evidence being given to add to/vary/contradict the terms of a contract as they appear written o Limit evidence that can be given to explain the meaning of terms of a written contract The parol evidence rule generally applies to exclude oral statements made by parties when negotiating/making a contract and also potentially applies to extrinsic evidence in the form of writing (e.g. letters, memoranda etc.) - Harris v Sydney Glass & Tile Co (1904) 2 CLR 227
Extrinsic Evidence in Identifying the Terms
The parol evidence rule applies only when a contract is wholly in writing (Hoyt's Pty Ltd v Spencer) o As a corollary it does not apply in identifying terms of a contract only partly in writing The use of extrinsic evidence in determining whether a contract is wholly in writing
* Parties can include terms in written contracts that state that it represents the entire agreement and such a clause, a merger clause, will be binding
* There are two approaches as to the use of extrinsic evidence in assessing whether or not a contract contains whole or part of an agreement: o The strict approach - is that primary be given to written documents that appear as a complete record of the parties' contract (Hope v RCA Photophone of Australia Pty Ltd (1937) 59 CLR 348)Hence extrinsic evidence isn't admissible to add to/vary/contradict terms of the agreement
Any negotiation/correspondence is not relevant, it is either accepted or rejected by the written contract The presumed intentions approach - the parol evidence rule does not apply unless it is determined that the parties intend the written document to contain all terms of the contracto
Hence extrinsic evidence is admissible to determine whether or not the parties intended for the contract to be a complete expression of their intentions or it was to be varied by promissory statements Though no one approach has been taken in Equuscorp Pty Ltd v Glengallan Instruments Pty Ltd (2004) the HCA took the view that subsequent written contracts supersede any prior oral agreements, though this was based on the policy of giving effect to objective manifestations of consent of contracting parties. They did not reject the possibility of extrinsic evidence being brought in to establish parties intention concerning the ambit of the contract. The NSWSC expressly acknowledged that extrinsic evidence may be used in determining whether parties intended their contract to be wholly, or only partly, in writing (State Rail Authority of New South Wales v Heath Outdoor Pty Ltd) The parol evidence rule and electronic contracts
* In Chitty on Contracts it is suggested that the parol evidence rule should apply to electronic contracts (such as click-wrap contracts). Under this approach any oral or e-mail correspondence will be limited by the parol evidence rule. Exceptions to the parol evidence rule in identifying terms
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