Charles II, aka the “Merry Monarch”, was sitting on the English throne when the original Statute of Frauds was enacted in 1677. Therefore, one should be forgiven for the mistaken presumption that all questions involving the application of the statute have been raised and duly answered. Just yesterday, in fact, the California Court of Appeal addressed the apparently novel question of whether the Statute of Frauds bars enforcement of a real estate brokerage agreement signed by the broker and one of several owners of the property. Jacobs v. Locatelli, Cal. Ct. of Appeal Case No. H042292 (Feb. 8, 2017).
The agreement at issue in the case defined “owner” as “John B. Locatelli, Trustee of the John B. Locatelli Trust, et al.” Only Mr. Locatelli signed the agreement even though there were signature lines for five other owners. The owners argued that the broker’s complaint was barred by the Statute of Frauds. The trial court judge, Paul M. Marigonda, agreed. The Court of Appeal did not. Writing for the Court, Presiding Justice Conrad L. Rushing found that the “real issue” was the sufficiency of the broker’s allegation that Mr. Locatelli signed on behalf of the other owners, who formed a joint venture. Justice Rushing found that Judge Marigonda should have allowed the case to proceed so that the broker could introduce extrinsic evidence as to how Mr. Locatelli signed the agreement.
What about the others?
Justice Rushing noted that “‘et al.’ clearly means, in this context, ‘and others.'”. The phrase is an abbreviation of the Latin et alii, aliae or alia, which means “and others”. The three different endings are based on the grammatical masculine, feminine and neuter plural forms of the word alius. Clearly, the advantage of using the abbreviation is not having to make a grammatical gender choice.