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Is it possible for a person to (successfully) argue that if they signed something, just because they wrote their name on the same piece of paper, it doesn't mean that they actually agreed to it?

For example, in some contracts I see statements like "I agree as follows:" at the top, or "by signing you agree to the above mentioned terms and conditions" at the bottom. Is this necessary? I once had a job offer where they asked me to sign irrelevant of my decision to accept or reject offer. However, the contract still had a check box for whether I would be accepting or refusing it.

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Yes, it helps if the contract explicitly states: "the below signatures indicate acceptance of the terms set forth herein."

Or something to that effect. This is called a binding statement or a binding clause. This is useful for exactly the reasons you speculate in your question. Clarity.

The written document is not the contract. It is evidence of the contract. Therefore, the binding statement is evidence of the parties' intent.

Although a binding clause is useful, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to bind the parties.

The parties can still be bound without a binding clause. The statement merely adds additional evidence and clarity in case one party were to claim that s/he never intended to be bound by their signature. Because, let's say, the other party said something similar to what you describe in the OP.

And, finally, other elements must be present in order to bind the parties. Things like a meeting of the minds and consideration are two but not all of those necessary elements.

  • Just curious, has there been a precedent where contract was considered invalid because of absence of "the below signatures indicate acceptance of the terms set forth herein." statement? – Jonny Dec 12 '15 at 7:45
  • @Jonny: Not that I'm aware of. It wouldn't likely happen that way anyway. In other words, the contract wouldn't be invalidated because it didn't contain a binding statement. That's why my answer clarifies that such a statement is not necessary. Instead, one party would claim they did not intend to be bound by their signature. Then the other party would claim the opposite and present evidence to support their position. That evidence most frequently includes behavior. Did the parties behave as agreed? would be the question. All this drama can be avoided with a binding statement. – Mowzer Dec 12 '15 at 7:59
  • I could not find much about binding statement on Google so I would think that it should not matter, at least in most cases. My question in previous comment was - has there been precedent for at least one case where one party pointed out to absence (or presence) of binding statement to try to affect ruling. Your answer was that you are not aware of such case, so I would think it contradicts with your first sentence in answer that "Yes, it helps...". – Jonny Dec 13 '15 at 0:40
  • Must the binding statement actually have the word "signature"? For example I've seen contracts that state "I have red this agreement and accept the terms and conditions" then on the next line it says "signature". This still doesn't technically explicitly state that "signing makes this a legally binding contract". Example acmelab.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/… – AlexP Dec 15 '15 at 11:34
  • @Mowzer did you see above comment? – AlexP Dec 18 '15 at 13:00
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Contracts don't have to be necessarily in a written form to become enforceable and hence in such case do not need signature at all.

Two obvious reason why to ask for a contract to be in written form are:

  1. Both parties can rehearse their responsibilities and rights (opposed to non-written contract where people tend to forget things).
  2. If dispute escalates to court, then written contract is more convincing to judge than a claim of "verbal contract" existence that is hard to prove.

So, in theory, you might have a verbal contract that you agree to a written contract (that does not have signature). See Incorporation by reference for more details.

  • Do you mean record instead of rehearse? – Dale M Dec 12 '15 at 8:31
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    @DaleM My first language is not English so I might be wrong. My understanding is that rehearse is synonym to recite and list. So I intended to use word rehearse in a a way like "I will recite/rehearse/list you the terms of the contract that we both agreed to 2 years ago. Just in case you have forgotten them by now.". – Jonny Dec 13 '15 at 0:47

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