14.1 Assignment of Contract Rights
- Understand what an assignment is and how it is made.
- Recognize the effect of the assignment.
- Know when assignments are not allowed.
- Understand the concept of assignor’s warranties.
The Concept of a Contract Assignment
Contracts create rights and duties. By an assignment The passing or delivering by one person to another of the right to a contract benefit. , an obligee One to whom an obligation is owed. (one who has the right to receive a contract benefit) transfers a right to receive a contract benefit owed by the obligor One who owes an obligation. (the one who has a duty to perform) to a third person ( assignee One to whom the right to receive benefit of a contract is passed or delivered. ); the obligee then becomes an assignor One who agrees to allow another to receive the benefit of a contract. (one who makes an assignment).
The Restatement (Second) of Contracts defines an assignment of a right as “a manifestation of the assignor’s intention to transfer it by virtue of which the assignor’s right to performance by the obligor is extinguished in whole or in part and the assignee acquires the right to such performance.” Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 317(1). The one who makes the assignment is both an obligee and a transferor. The assignee acquires the right to receive the contractual obligations of the promisor, who is referred to as the obligor (see Figure 14.1 "Assignment of Rights" ). The assignor may assign any right unless (1) doing so would materially change the obligation of the obligor, materially burden him, increase his risk, or otherwise diminish the value to him of the original contract; (2) statute or public policy forbids the assignment; or (3) the contract itself precludes assignment. The common law of contracts and Articles 2 and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) govern assignments. Assignments are an important part of business financing, such as factoring. A factor A person who pays money to receive another’s executory contractual benefits. is one who purchases the right to receive income from another.
Figure 14.1 Assignment of Rights
Method of Assignment
To effect an assignment, the assignor must make known his intention to transfer the rights to the third person. The assignor’s intention must be that the assignment is effective without need of any further action or any further manifestation of intention to make the assignment. In other words, the assignor must intend and understand himself to be making the assignment then and there; he is not promising to make the assignment sometime in the future.
Under the UCC, any assignments of rights in excess of $5,000 must be in writing, but otherwise, assignments can be oral and consideration is not required: the assignor could assign the right to the assignee for nothing (not likely in commercial transactions, of course). Mrs. Franklin has the right to receive $750 a month from the sale of a house she formerly owned; she assigns the right to receive the money to her son Jason, as a gift. The assignment is good, though such a gratuitous assignment is usually revocable, which is not the case where consideration has been paid for an assignment.
Acceptance and Revocation
For the assignment to become effective, the assignee must manifest his acceptance under most circumstances. This is done automatically when, as is usually the case, the assignee has given consideration for the assignment (i.e., there is a contract between the assignor and the assignee in which the assignment is the assignor’s consideration), and then the assignment is not revocable without the assignee’s consent. Problems of acceptance normally arise only when the assignor intends the assignment as a gift. Then, for the assignment to be irrevocable, either the assignee must manifest his acceptance or the assignor must notify the assignee in writing of the assignment.
Notice to the obligor is not required, but an obligor who renders performance to the assignor without notice of the assignment (that performance of the contract is to be rendered now to the assignee) is discharged. Obviously, the assignor cannot then keep the consideration he has received; he owes it to the assignee. But if notice is given to the obligor and she performs to the assignor anyway, the assignee can recover from either the obligor or the assignee, so the obligor could have to perform twice, as in Exercise 2 at the chapter’s end, Aldana v. Colonial Palms Plaza . Of course, an obligor who receives notice of the assignment from the assignee will want to be sure the assignment has really occurred. After all, anybody could waltz up to the obligor and say, “I’m the assignee of your contract with the bank. From now on, pay me the $500 a month, not the bank.” The obligor is entitled to verification of the assignment.
Effect of Assignment
An assignment of rights effectively makes the assignee stand in the shoes of An assignee takes no greater rights than his assignor had. the assignor. He gains all the rights against the obligor that the assignor had, but no more. An obligor who could avoid the assignor’s attempt to enforce the rights could avoid a similar attempt by the assignee. Likewise, under UCC Section 9-318(1), the assignee of an account is subject to all terms of the contract between the debtor and the creditor-assignor. Suppose Dealer sells a car to Buyer on a contract where Buyer is to pay $300 per month and the car is warranted for 50,000 miles. If the car goes on the fritz before then and Dealer won’t fix it, Buyer could fix it for, say, $250 and deduct that $250 from the amount owed Dealer on the next installment (called a setoff). Now, if Dealer assigns the contract to Assignee, Assignee stands in Dealer’s shoes, and Buyer could likewise deduct the $250 from payment to Assignee.
The “shoe rule” does not apply to two types of assignments. First, it is inapplicable to the sale of a negotiable instrument to a holder in due course. Second, the rule may be waived: under the UCC and at common law, the obligor may agree in the original contract not to raise defenses against the assignee that could have been raised against the assignor. Uniform Commercial Code, Section 9-206. While a waiver of defenses Surrender by a party of legal rights otherwise available to him or her. makes the assignment more marketable from the assignee’s point of view, it is a situation fraught with peril to an obligor, who may sign a contract without understanding the full import of the waiver. Under the waiver rule, for example, a farmer who buys a tractor on credit and discovers later that it does not work would still be required to pay a credit company that purchased the contract; his defense that the merchandise was shoddy would be unavailing (he would, as used to be said, be “having to pay on a dead horse”).
For that reason, there are various rules that limit both the holder in due course and the waiver rule. Certain defenses, the so-called real defenses (infancy, duress, and fraud in the execution, among others), may always be asserted. Also, the waiver clause in the contract must have been presented in good faith, and if the assignee has actual notice of a defense that the buyer or lessee could raise, then the waiver is ineffective. Moreover, in consumer transactions, the UCC’s rule is subject to state laws that protect consumers (people buying things used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes), and many states, by statute or court decision, have made waivers of defenses ineffective in such consumer transactions A contract for household or domestic purposes, not commercial purposes. . Federal Trade Commission regulations also affect the ability of many sellers to pass on rights to assignees free of defenses that buyers could raise against them. Because of these various limitations on the holder in due course and on waivers, the “shoe rule” will not govern in consumer transactions and, if there are real defenses or the assignee does not act in good faith, in business transactions as well.
When Assignments Are Not Allowed
The general rule—as previously noted—is that most contract rights are assignable. But there are exceptions. Five of them are noted here.
Material Change in Duties of the Obligor
When an assignment has the effect of materially changing the duties that the obligor must perform, it is ineffective. Changing the party to whom the obligor must make a payment is not a material change of duty that will defeat an assignment, since that, of course, is the purpose behind most assignments. Nor will a minor change in the duties the obligor must perform defeat the assignment.
Several residents in the town of Centerville sign up on an annual basis with the Centerville Times to receive their morning paper. A customer who is moving out of town may assign his right to receive the paper to someone else within the delivery route. As long as the assignee pays for the paper, the assignment is effective; the only relationship the obligor has to the assignee is a routine delivery in exchange for payment. Obligors can consent in the original contract, however, to a subsequent assignment of duties. Here is a clause from the World Team Tennis League contract: “It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to sell, assign, trade and transfer this contract to another Club in the League, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such sale, exchange, assignment or transfer and to faithfully perform and carry out his or her obligations under this contract as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other Club.” Consent is not necessary when the contract does not involve a personal relationship.
Assignment of Personal Rights
When it matters to the obligor who receives the benefit of his duty to perform under the contract, then the receipt of the benefit is a personal right The right or duty of a particular person to perform or receive contract duties or benefits; cannot be assigned. that cannot be assigned. For example, a student seeking to earn pocket money during the school year signs up to do research work for a professor she admires and with whom she is friendly. The professor assigns the contract to one of his colleagues with whom the student does not get along. The assignment is ineffective because it matters to the student (the obligor) who the person of the assignee is. An insurance company provides auto insurance covering Mohammed Kareem, a sixty-five-year-old man who drives very carefully. Kareem cannot assign the contract to his seventeen-year-old grandson because it matters to the insurance company who the person of its insured is. Tenants usually cannot assign (sublet) their tenancies without the landlord’s permission because it matters to the landlord who the person of their tenant is. Section 14.4.1 "Nonassignable Rights" , Nassau Hotel Co. v. Barnett & Barse Corp. , is an example of the nonassignability of a personal right.
Assignment Forbidden by Statute or Public Policy
Various federal and state laws prohibit or regulate some contract assignment. The assignment of future wages is regulated by state and federal law to protect people from improvidently denying themselves future income because of immediate present financial difficulties. And even in the absence of statute, public policy might prohibit some assignments.
Contracts That Prohibit Assignment
Assignability of contract rights is useful, and prohibitions against it are not generally favored. Many contracts contain general language that prohibits assignment of rights or of “the contract.” Both the Restatement and UCC Section 2-210(3) declare that in the absence of any contrary circumstances, a provision in the agreement that prohibits assigning “the contract” bars “only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor’s performance.” Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 322. In other words, unless the contract specifically prohibits assignment of any of its terms, a party is free to assign anything except his or her own duties.
Even if a contractual provision explicitly prohibits it, a right to damages for breach of the whole contract is assignable under UCC Section 2-210(2) in contracts for goods. Likewise, UCC Section 9-318(4) invalidates any contract provision that prohibits assigning sums already due or to become due. Indeed, in some states, at common law, a clause specifically prohibiting assignment will fail. For example, the buyer and the seller agree to the sale of land and to a provision barring assignment of the rights under the contract. The buyer pays the full price, but the seller refuses to convey. The buyer then assigns to her friend the right to obtain title to the land from the seller. The latter’s objection that the contract precludes such an assignment will fall on deaf ears in some states; the assignment is effective, and the friend may sue for the title.
The law distinguishes between assigning future rights under an existing contract and assigning rights that will arise from a future contract. Rights contingent on a future event can be assigned in exactly the same manner as existing rights, as long as the contingent rights are already incorporated in a contract. Ben has a long-standing deal with his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson, to keep the latter’s walk clear of snow at twenty dollars a snowfall. Ben is saving his money for a new printer, but when he is eighty dollars shy of the purchase price, he becomes impatient and cajoles a friend into loaning him the balance. In return, Ben assigns his friend the earnings from the next four snowfalls. The assignment is effective. However, a right that will arise from a future contract cannot be the subject of a present assignment.
An assignor may assign part of a contractual right, but only if the obligor can perform that part of his contractual obligation separately from the remainder of his obligation. Assignment of part of a payment due is always enforceable. However, if the obligor objects, neither the assignor nor the assignee may sue him unless both are party to the suit. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben one hundred dollars. Ben assigns fifty dollars of that sum to his friend. Mrs. Robinson is perplexed by this assignment and refuses to pay until the situation is explained to her satisfaction. The friend brings suit against Mrs. Robinson. The court cannot hear the case unless Ben is also a party to the suit. This ensures all parties to the dispute are present at once and avoids multiple lawsuits.
It may happen that an assignor assigns the same interest twice (see Figure 14.2 "Successive Assignments" ). With certain exceptions, the first assignee takes precedence over any subsequent assignee. One obvious exception is when the first assignment is ineffective or revocable. A subsequent assignment has the effect of revoking a prior assignment that is ineffective or revocable. Another exception: if in good faith the subsequent assignee gives consideration for the assignment and has no knowledge of the prior assignment, he takes precedence whenever he obtains payment from, performance from, or a judgment against the obligor, or whenever he receives some tangible evidence from the assignor that the right has been assigned (e.g., a bank deposit book or an insurance policy).
Some states follow the different English rule: the first assignee to give notice to the obligor has priority, regardless of the order in which the assignments were made. Furthermore, if the assignment falls within the filing requirements of UCC Article 9, the first assignee to file will prevail.
Figure 14.2 Successive Assignments
An assignor has legal responsibilities in making assignments. He cannot blithely assign the same interests pell-mell and escape liability. Unless the contract explicitly states to the contrary, a person who assigns a right for value makes certain assignor’s warranties Promises, express or implied, made by an assignor to the assignee about the merits of the assignment. to the assignee: that he will not upset the assignment, that he has the right to make it, and that there are no defenses that will defeat it. However, the assignor does not guarantee payment; assignment does not by itself amount to a warranty that the obligor is solvent or will perform as agreed in the original contract. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben fifty dollars. Ben assigns this sum to his friend. Before the friend collects, Ben releases Mrs. Robinson from her obligation. The friend may sue Ben for the fifty dollars. Or again, if Ben represents to his friend that Mrs. Robinson owes him (Ben) fifty dollars and assigns his friend that amount, but in fact Mrs. Robinson does not owe Ben that much, then Ben has breached his assignor’s warranty. The assignor’s warranties may be express or implied.
Generally, it is OK for an obligee to assign the right to receive contractual performance from the obligor to a third party. The effect of the assignment is to make the assignee stand in the shoes of the assignor, taking all the latter’s rights and all the defenses against nonperformance that the obligor might raise against the assignor. But the obligor may agree in advance to waive defenses against the assignee, unless such waiver is prohibited by law.
There are some exceptions to the rule that contract rights are assignable. Some, such as personal rights, are not circumstances where the obligor’s duties would materially change, cases where assignability is forbidden by statute or public policy, or, with some limits, cases where the contract itself prohibits assignment. Partial assignments and successive assignments can happen, and rules govern the resolution of problems arising from them.
When the assignor makes the assignment, that person makes certain warranties, express or implied, to the assignee, basically to the effect that the assignment is good and the assignor knows of no reason why the assignee will not get performance from the obligor.
- If Able makes a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly rental payments from Tenant, how is Baker’s right different from what Able’s was?
- Able made a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly purchase payments from Carr, who bought an automobile from Able. The car had a 180-day warranty, but the car malfunctioned within that time. Able had quit the auto business entirely. May Carr withhold payments from Baker to offset the cost of needed repairs?
- Assume in the case in Exercise 2 that Baker knew Able was selling defective cars just before his (Able’s) withdrawal from the auto business. How, if at all, does that change Baker’s rights?
- Why are leases generally not assignable? Why are insurance contracts not assignable?
Assignment Of Rights Agreement
Jump to section, need help with a legal contract, what is an assignment of rights agreement.
An assignment of rights agreement is a written document in which one party, the assignor, assigns to another party all or part of their rights under an existing contract. The most common example of this would be when someone wants to sell their shares of stock in a company.
When you buy shares from someone else (the seller), they agree to transfer them over and give up any control they had on that share. This way, another party can take ownership without going through the trouble of trying to buy the whole company themselves.
Common Sections in Assignment Of Rights Agreements
Below is a list of common sections included in Assignment Of Rights Agreements. These sections are linked to the below sample agreement for you to explore.
Assignment Of Rights Agreement Sample
Reference : Security Exchange Commission - Edgar Database, EX-99.(H)(7) 5 dex99h7.htm FORM OF ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT , Viewed December 20, 2021, View Source on SEC .
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Assignment of Contract Rights: Everything You Need to Know
The assignment of contract rights happens when one party assigns the obligations and rights of their part of a legal agreement to a different party. 3 min read
The assignment of contract rights happens when one party assigns the obligations and rights of their part of a legal agreement to a different party.
What Is an Assignment of Contract?
The party that currently holds rights and obligations in an existing contract is called the assignor and the party that is taking over that position in the contract is called the assignee. When assignment of contract takes place, the assignor usually wants to hand all of their duties over to a new individual or company, but the assignee needs to be fully aware of what they're taking on.
Only tangible things like property and contract rights can be transferred or assigned . Most contracts allow for assignment or transfer of contract rights, but some will include a clause specifying that transfers are not permitted.
If the contract does allow for assignments, the assignor isn't required to have the agreement of the other party in the contract but may transfer their rights whenever they want. Contract assignment does not affect the rights and responsibilities of either party involved in the contract. Just because rights are assigned or transferred doesn't mean that the duties of the contract no longer need to be carried out.
Even after the assignor transfers their rights to another, they still remain liable if any issues arise unless otherwise noted in an agreement with the other party.
The purpose for the assignment of contract rights is to change the contractual relationship, or privity , between two parties by replacing one party with a new party.
How Do Contract Assignments Work?
Contract assignments are handled differently depending on certain aspects of the agreement and other factors. The language of the original contract plays a huge role because some agreements include clauses that don't allow for the assignment of contract rights or that require the consent of the other party before assignment can occur.
For example, if Susan has a contract with a local pharmacy to deliver her prescriptions each month and the pharmacy changes ownership, the new pharmacy can have Susan's contract assigned to them. As long as Susan continues to receive her medicine when she needs it, the contract continues on, but now Susan has an agreement with a new party.
Some contracts specify that the liability of the agreement lies with the original parties, even if assignment of contract takes place. This happens when the assignor guarantees that the assignee will continue to perform the duties required in the contract. That guarantee makes the assignor liable.
Are Assignments Always Enforced?
Assignments of contract rights are usually enforceable, but will not be under these circumstances:
- Assignment is prohibited in the contract language, which is called an anti-assignment clause.
- Assignment of rights changes the foundational terms of the agreement.
- The assignment is illegal in some way.
If assignment of contract takes place, but the contract actually prohibits it, the assignment will automatically be voided.
When a transfer of contract rights will somehow change the basics of the contract, assignment cannot happen. For instance, if risks are increased, value is decreased, or the ability for performance is affected, the assignment will probably not be enforced by the court.
Basic Rights of Contract Assignments
Most contracts allow for assignments, but you'll want to double check a contract before signing if this is something you anticipate happening during the lifespan of your agreement. Contract law does impose strict rules and regulations regarding the assignment of contract rights, so it's important to be sure that any transfers of rights are fully legal before acting on them.
Any business agreements should always outline provisions for contract assignments and be well-drafted to be sure that the agreement is effective and enforceable.
Why Use Contract Assignments?
When an assignor hands over their contracts rights to an assignee, they are signing away their obligation to perform and putting that obligation on a new party. The other party involved in the contract should see no difference in how the agreement plays out. If performance is negatively affected by the assignment of rights, something is wrong.
If a party in a contract can no longer perform their duties, it is better to assign their contractual rights to a party who can carry out the duties rather than breach contract.
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Assignments: The Basic Law
The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.
As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.
The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.
Basic Definitions and Concepts:
An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).
An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.
The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.
Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.
No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.
Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)
The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.
The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.
More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.
And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.
Novation Compared to Assignment:
Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”
A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.
An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.
In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.
An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.
Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .
But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.
Enforceability of Assignments:
Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.
In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.
After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.
Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.
Assignment of Contractual Rights:
Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.
If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.
In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).
On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.
The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.
Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.
A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.
Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:
Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.
A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.
Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.
Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.
A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.
Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.
A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.
Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.
It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)
It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.
In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.
As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.
One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.
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Assignment of Contract Rights and Obligations
Assignment of Contract Rights and Obligations – A Complete Guide
The assignment of contract rights and obligations is a common practice in the business world. In simplest terms, an assignment is the transfer of contractual rights and obligations from one party to another. The process may sound straightforward, but it requires careful consideration of legal and practical aspects.
In this article, we will discuss the various aspects of the assignment of contract rights and obligations, including its definition, legal requirements, types, and potential implications.
Definition of Assignment of Contract Rights and Obligations
An assignment occurs when one party transfers its rights under a contract to another party. In other words, the original party (assignor) agrees to give up its contractual rights and obligations to a third party (assignee).
The key elements of an assignment are:
– The transfer of rights or obligations must be voluntary and intentional.
– There must be a valid contract in place between the original parties.
– The assignment must be in writing and signed by the parties involved.
The assignment of contract rights and obligations is subject to various legal requirements. Here are some of the most important ones:
– Consent of the other party: The assignor must obtain the other party`s consent to assign the contract. This means that the other party (obligor) must agree to perform the same obligations to the assignee as it had agreed to perform to the assignor.
– Notice of assignment: The assignor must give notice of the assignment to the obligor. The notice serves as evidence of the transfer and helps to prevent confusion or disputes.
– Valid consideration: The assignee must provide valid consideration to the assignor for the assignment. Consideration typically takes the form of money or other valuable assets, but it can also be a promise to perform a service or fulfill another obligation.
– Compliance with relevant laws: The assignment must comply with all relevant laws, such as contract law, property law, and securities law.
Types of Assignment
There are two main types of assignment: legal and equitable.
A legal assignment occurs when all the rights and obligations under a contract are transferred to the assignee. The assignee becomes a party to the contract and has the right to enforce its terms against the obligor.
An equitable assignment, on the other hand, occurs when only the benefits of a contract are transferred to the assignee. The assignee does not become a party to the contract and cannot enforce its terms against the obligor directly. However, the assignor must still perform its obligations to the assignee, and the assignee can seek legal remedies if the assignor fails to do so.
Implications of Assignment
The assignment of contract rights and obligations can have significant implications for the parties involved. Here are some of the key ones:
– Liability: The assignee may become liable for any breaches of the contract by the assignor. Therefore, assignees should conduct due diligence to ensure that the assignor has fulfilled its obligations under the contract.
– Notice requirements: The notice of assignment must be given to the obligor, and failure to do so can result in the assignment being invalid.
– Consent requirements: The obligor`s consent to the assignment is required, and if it is not obtained, the assignment may be unenforceable.
– Effect on warranties: When a contract is assigned, any warranties given by the original parties may no longer be valid.
The assignment of contract rights and obligations is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of legal and practical aspects. To ensure a successful assignment, parties must comply with all relevant legal requirements, obtain the obligor`s consent, and provide valid consideration.
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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “ assignee .” This concept is used in both contract and property law. The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.
Under contract law, assignment of a contract is both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties , in the absence of evidence otherwise. For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C. That is, this assignment is both: (1) an assignment of A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) a delegation of A’s duty to teach guitar to C. In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who d elegates the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the obligations to the assignee , and B is the “ assignee ” who is owed duties and is liable to the “ obligor ”.
(1) Assignment of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law
There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law. First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, he/she cannot assign his/her future right to an assignee . That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign his/her rights to C. Second, rights cannot be assigned when they materially change the obligor ’s duty and rights. Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay him/her. Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.
(2) Delegation of Duties
If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor. It can only be delegated if the promised performance is more commonplace. Further, an obligee can sue if the assignee does not perform. However, the delegee is secondarily liable unless there has been an express release of the delegee. That is, if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C. If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.
Lastly, a related concept is novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor. If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. However, novation requires an original obligee’s consent .
Under property law, assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations. For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants to another party (C) to take over the property. In this scenario, A might be able to choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C. If assigning , A would be giving C the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone whereas if subleasing , A would be giving C for a limited period of the remaining term. Significantly, under assignment C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not.
[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]
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