Given their litigation-heavy culture, it may seem ironic that Americans are so quick to say yes to an agreement. After all, saying yes and then not following through should make it easier for the one party to file a lawsuit.
However, the reality is the opposite. By having a culturally soft yes Americans make it more difficult for others to successfully sue them. In the U.S. it takes far more than a simple yes to indicate an oral agreement, which offers Americans protection from legal claims.
Gianni vs. Russell Supreme Court of Pennsylvania 1924 – Gianni, who owned a small store, claimed that his landlord told him that he could have the exclusive right to sell drinks in the building.
The landlord then rented another space in the building to a company that sold drinks, and Gianni attempted to sue. However, because Gianni had entered into a written lease, and there was no mention of this right in the lease, the oral contract was said to be nonexistent.
Power Entertainment Inc. v. National Football League Properties, Inc., United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, 1998 – the plaintiff and defendant orally agreed that Power Entertainment would take over a licensing agreement between the NFL Properties and another company in exchange for Power Entertainment assuming the $800,000 debt between the two original companies. However, after the debt was paid, NFL Properties did not transfer the license, and the oral contract was found to be invalid.
Additionally, oral agreements in the US are sometimes called handshake deals. Although an actual handshake isn’t necessary to make the agreement binding, this still shows that it takes more than a ‘yes’ to enter into an agreement.