SUPPLEMENTAL OPINION ON REHEARING
Appellees' motion for rehearing of the unpublished Memorandum Decision filed in this case on June 3, 1980, has been granted. Because of the confusion which exists in the judicial opinions in this state and elsewhere on the question of application of the parol evidence rule to allegations of promissory fraud when it contradicts or varies the terms of the written agreement of the parties, we have decided to expand and modify in part our previous decision.
This appeal is from a partial summary judgment quieting title to a 131 acre parcel of real property in appellees, and awarding attorneys' fees to appellees. The trial court determined that appellant's option to purchase the land had expired. Appellant alleges there was evidence before the trial court that the appellees prevented appellant from complying with the terms of the option, and that appellees fraudulently induced appellant's delay in performance, thereby excusing a delay in appellant's performance.
In January, 1976, one of the appellees, Pinnacle Peak Developers, sold forty acres of land to appellant for a residential subdivision development. At the same time, appellee, Pinnacle Peak Developers, entered into a written option agreement with appellant, TRW Investment Corporation, in which appellant was granted an option to purchase approximately 131 additional acres of land in three stages and on certain express terms and conditions. The first stage of the option was to expire June 15, 1977, and could be exercised by appellant "if, and only if, [appellant] has installed the off-site improvements required by Section XXXIII of [the] Trust Agreement ... on not less than fifty percent [of the forty acre parcel]." Failure to exercise the first stage of the option was to terminate the balance of appellant's option rights. The off-site improvements to be provided by appellant included electrical and telephone lines, marking of boundaries of the lots, grading, roads, and a water distribution system. Appellant did not complete the required off-site improvements until July 15, 1977, some thirty days after the deadline in the option agreement.
Appellant attempted to exercise the first stage of the option. Appellees refused to allow it on the grounds that the option had expired without completion of the required improvements. After the refusal, appellant recorded the option agreement in the office of the Maricopa County recorder. Appellees then filed suit against appellant, alleging in Count I of the complaint a cause of action for slander of title and interference with business relations, and in Count II a cause of action to quiet title to the property covered by the option. Appellant answered and counterclaimed for specific performance of the option and for damages for fraud in the inducement.
After various motions made in the trial court, the court granted partial summary judgment to appellees by quieting title to the property covered by the option in Pinnacle Peak Developers and awarding attorneys' fees of $19,595.25 for the quiet title claim.
A motion for summary judgment should be granted only where the pleadings, depositions, admissions on file, and affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Northen v. Elledge, 72 Ariz. 166, 232 P.2d 111 (1951). As stated in Dutch Inns of America, Inc. v. Horizon Corp., 18 Ariz.App. 116, 118-19, 500 P.2d 901, 903-04 (1972):
Appellant contends that summary judgment was not proper because there was an issue of material fact as to its affirmative defense of fraudulent inducement. Specifically, appellant alleged that appellees falsely and fraudulently stated to appellant in December, 1975, prior to execution of the option agreement, that the deadline of June 15, 1977, for completion of the off-site improvements "would not present a problem as long as TRW made reasonable progress." Appellant alleged that the representation was false when it was made, and that in reliance upon the representation, it decided to enter into the purchase of the forty acres and the option agreement, and that the agreements would not have been made but for the representation.
Arizona courts require strict compliance by the holder of an option with the terms of the option. Oberan v. Western Machinery Co., 65 Ariz. 103, 174 P.2d 745 (1946); University Realty & Development Co. v. Omid-Gaf, Inc., 19 Ariz.App. 488, 508 P.2d 747 (1973). The requirements of completion of the off-site improvements and exercise of the option by June 15, 1977, are clear and unambiguous. The express terms and conditions precedent of a contract will be enforced by the courts regardless of the harshness or severity of the result. Arizona Land Title & Trust Co. v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 6 Ariz.App. 52, 429 P.2d 686 (1967); 5 Williston on Contracts § 669, at 154 (3d ed. 1961 & Supp. 1979).
Appellees argue that evidence of the alleged oral representation made prior to execution of the option agreement would be barred by the parol evidence rule, citing Standage Ventures, Inc. v. State, 114 Ariz. 480, 562 P.2d 360 (1977); Sun Lodge, Inc. v. Ramada Development Co., 124 Ariz. 540, 606 P.2d 30 (App. 1979); 7-G Ranching Co. v. Stites, 4 Ariz.App. 228, 419 P.2d 358 (1966); and Apolito v. Johnson, 3 Ariz.App. 358, 414 P.2d 442 (1966). Appellant cites authorities for the proposition that parol evidence is admissible to show fraud in the inducement even though it has the effect of varying the terms of the written agreement of the parties. See Lusk Corp. v. Burgess, 85 Ariz. 90, 332 P.2d 493 (1958); Lutfy v. R.D. Roper & Sons Motor Co., 57 Ariz. 495, 115 P.2d 161 (1941); Dowdle v. Young, 1 Ariz.App. 255, 401 P.2d 740 (1965).
The appellant urges the admissibility of evidence of an oral promissory representation by appellee, which was made prior to the execution of the written option agreement and which is contrary to an express provision of the written agreement. Appellant offers the evidence and alleges that appellee's promissory representation was false when made, was made with an intention not to honor it, and that appellant relied upon it. Appellant seeks to use the allegation of fraud in the inducement as a defense to appellee's quiet title claim. Appellant does not seek to void the option agreement; it seeks to enforce it, and to excuse appellant's failure to fulfill an express condition of the written option agreement.
A promise, when made with a present intention not to perform it, is a misrepresentation which can give rise to an action of fraud. Restatement of Contracts § 473 (1932); Restatement of Torts § 530 (1938). As stated in Waddell v. White, 56 Ariz. 420, 428, 108 P.2d 565, 569 (1940):
See also Jamison v. Southern States Life Insurance Co., 3 Ariz.App. 131, 412 P.2d 306 (1966); James and Gray, Misrepresentation (pt. II), 37 Md.Law Rev. 488 (1978).
A good statement of the parol evidence rule is found in Childres and Spitz, Status in the Law of Contract, 47 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 1, at 6-7 (1972):
A summary of the problem raised in a case such as this one is succinctly stated in James and Gray, Misrepresentation (pt. II), 37 Md.Law Rev. 488, at 507-08 (1978):
The cases from other states are split widely on whether to permit parol evidence which contradicts a writing when fraud in the inducement is alleged. A number of courts appear to follow the Restatement of Contracts § 238 (1932),
Other courts exclude evidence of promissory fraud which contradicts the terms of the written agreement on the basis of the parol evidence rule. See, e.g., Bank of America National Trust & Savings Ass'n v. Pendergrass, 4 Cal.2d 258, 48 P.2d 659 (1935); Regus v. Gladstone Holmes, Inc., 207 Cal.App.2d 872, 25 Cal.Rptr. 25 (1962); Greenwald v. Food Fair Stores Corp., 100 So.2d 200 (Fla., 1958); Simmons v. Wooten, 241 Ga. 518, 246 S.E.2d 639 (1978); Jack Richards Aircraft Sales, Inc. v. Vaughn, 203 Kan. 967, 457 P.2d 691 (1969); Loughery v. Central Trust Co., 258 Mass. 172, 154 N.E. 583 (1927); Dahmes v. Industrial Credit Co., 261 Minn. 26, 110 N.W.2d 484 (1961); Hoff v. Peninsula Drainage Dist. # 2, 172 Or. 630, 143 P.2d 471 (1943); Kilgore v. Hix, 205 Tenn. 564, 327 S.W.2d 474 (1959); and Beers v. Atlas Assur. Co., 215 Wis. 165, 253 N.W. 584 (1934).
Calamari and Perillo, A Plea For a Uniform Parol Evidence Rule and Principles of Contract Interpretation, 42 Indiana L.J. 333, 341 (1967). See also 3 Corbin on Contracts § 575 (1960); 4 Williston on Contracts § 633 (3d ed. 1961); C. McCormick, Handbook of the Law of Evidence, §§ 210-16 (1954).
The reported decisions in Arizona involving the admission of evidence which contradicts or varies a subsequent written agreement illustrate the confusion which exists elsewhere in dealing with this question. Four cases have allowed evidence of prior or contemporaneous oral representations which were at variance with a written agreement in support of a claim for damages for fraud in the inducement. In Lusk Corp. v. Burgess, 85 Ariz. 90, 332 P.2d 493 (1958), the plaintiff entered a written agreement with defendant to buy a house and lot. The agreement contained a provision that it covered all the agreements, expressed or implied, between the parties. Prior to execution of the agreement, the defendant had orally promised plaintiffs that the adjacent lot would be used for a certain specified use and type of construction and design. The trial court found that the promise was false when made and had been reasonably relied upon by plaintiffs to their injury. The plaintiffs recovered damages for fraud in the inducement. The Arizona Supreme Court held:
Id. at 93, 332 P.2d at 495.
In Lutfy v. R.D. Roper & Sons Motor Co., 57 Ariz. 495, 115 P.2d 161 (1941), the plaintiff sought damages from the defendant for fraudulent misrepresentation that the automobile purchased by plaintiff was a 1937 model, when in fact it was a 1936 model. The written contract negated any representations or warranties other than those in the written contract. The Arizona Supreme Court approved the action of the trial court in allowing plaintiff to testify as to the oral representations made by defendant concerning the year and model of the automobile "because parol evidence is always admissible to show fraud, and this is true, even though it has the effect of varying the terms of a writing between the parties", citing Arnett v. Sanderson, 25 Ariz. 433, 218 P. 986 (1923); L.C. James Motor Co. v. Wetmore, 36 Ariz. 382, 286 P. 180 (1930); and Mooney v. Cyriacks, 185 Cal. 70, 195 P. 922 (1921). Id. at 506-07, 115 P.2d at 166.
In Pioneer Constructors v. Symes, 77 Ariz. 107, 267 P.2d 740 (1954), defendants successfully counterclaimed for fraud. Defendants entered into a written agreement with plaintiff to build low-cost houses. The written agreement stated that the total cost of all materials and labor would not exceed $3,100.00 per unit. At trial, evidence was admitted that the $3,100.00 maximum was placed in the contract at the insistence of a bonding company but was not intended by the parties to limit the amount to be paid to defendants for the construction. The court allowed the parol evidence "to show fraud," and cited Lutfy. Id. at 113, 267 P.2d at 745. See also Bomfalk v. Vaughan, 89 Ariz. 33, 357 P.2d 617 (1960).
Two Court of Appeals cases have admitted evidence of prior oral representations to show that the written agreement was procured by fraud. Dowdle v. Young, 1 Ariz.App. 255, 401 P.2d 740 (1965), allowed evidence of oral representations of the dimensions of a silage pit in a suit for breach of warranty and fraud despite a written agreement which contained a warranty as to the quantity of silage being sold in the pit. The opinion states:
Id. at 258, 401 P.2d at 743.
The Court of Appeals in Jamison v. Southern States Life Insurance Co., 3 Ariz.App. 131, 412 P.2d 306 (1966) set aside a summary judgment for the plaintiff who had sued to collect on a promissory note, holding that the parol evidence rule "does not preclude the showing that a written contract was entered into in reliance upon fraudulent representations", citing Dowdle and the Restatement of Contracts § 238. 3 Ariz. App. at 134, 412 P.2d at 309. The opinion held that the defendant was entitled under the pleadings to offer evidence in defense of the suit on the note that plaintiff had orally misrepresented that if defendant would execute the promissory note, plaintiff would make a mortgage loan to defendant.
On the other hand, there are two Court of Appeals cases from Division 2 which hold that evidence of prior oral representations is inadmissible when it would directly contradict a provision of a written agreement. Sun Lodge, Inc. v. Ramada Development Co., 124 Ariz. 540, 606 P.2d 30 (App. 1979);
124 Ariz. at 542, 606 P.2d at 32.
Apolito held that evidence of oral misrepresentations by the seller of land that the buyers would only be liable for half of the purchase price stated in the separate written agreements with each buyer was not admissible in support of the buyers' claim for rescission. The supplemental opinion states:
3 Ariz. App. at 359-60, 414 P.2d at 443-44.
Division 2 of the Court of Appeals in Apolito and Sun Lodge appears to have adopted the California view, and the view of a number of other jurisdictions, that limits the admissibility of promissory fraud when it conflicts with the written agreement. The California doctrine and cases cited by the court in Apolito are discussed and criticized in Sweet, Promissory Fraud and the Parol Evidence Rule, 49 Cal.L.Rev. 877 (1961).
The determination of when an oral promise is inconsistent with the written agreement can be difficult. See General Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 184 F.Supp. 231 (U.S.D.C. Minn., 3d Div., 1960); Dillon v. Sumner, 153 Cal.App.2d 639, 315 P.2d 84 (1957); and Simmons v. California Institute of Technology, 34 Cal.2d 264, 209 P.2d 581 (1949). Indeed, it is difficult to conclude that the oral promises made in Lusk Corp. were not inconsistent with the written agreement which negated the existence of any such promise.
A case by case study of a large number of cases nationwide dealing with the application of the parol evidence rule has been reported in Childres and Spitz, Status in the Law of Contract, 47 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 1 (1972). The results indicate that, in practice, courts generally apply the parol evidence rule to exclude allegations of prior or contemporaneous oral promises which contradict the written agreement in cases involving "formal contracts" which were the result of negotiation between parties with some expertise and business sophistication. Id. at 8, 9. There is a much greater tendency in the reported cases to allow such evidence in "informal contracts" between people who lack sophistication in business. Id. at 17-24. In cases involving abuse of the bargaining process, such as unconscionable contracts or contracts involving duress, the courts almost always disregard the parol evidence rule and allow evidence of the oral promises or representations.
The pleadings and affidavits in this case reflect that the parties each had experience in business transactions and that the written option agreement was prepared as the result of negotiations between the parties, who were represented by counsel. It involved a relatively substantial and sophisticated
The application of the parol evidence rule moves along a continuum based on the extent of the contradiction and the relative strength and sophistication of the parties and their negotiations. We disagree with the broad and simple statement of the application of the rule as set forth by Division 2 of this court in Sun Lodge and Apolito. There are circumstances under which evidence of a prior or contemporaneous contradictory oral representation or promise would be admissible notwithstanding the subsequent integrated written agreement of the parties, as is illustrated by Lusk Corp.
The memorandum decision filed in this case on June 3, 1980, is modified to the extent set forth above. In all other respects it remains unchanged.
The judgment is affirmed.
EUBANK, P.J., and HAIRE, J., concur.
Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 240 (Tent. Draft Nos. 1-7, 1973).
Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 241 (Tent. Draft Nos. 1-7, 1973).