California Lawsuit Against President Trump Raises Issue Of Consent

Earlier this week, Stepanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump in the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles.  Clifford v. Trump, L.A. Super. Ct. Case No. BC 696568 (filed Mar. 6, 2018).  The complaint asks the court to declare that the two agreements attached as exhibits "do not exist" because Mr. Trump never signed the agreements nor did he provide "any other valid consideration".  The agreements at issue are a confidential settlement agreement and a side letter.

The allegation about a lack of signature might seem to suggest a statute of frauds argument.  The statute of frauds is a defense to enforcement available to a party to be charged with performance.  Thus, if A signs a contract, the fact that B has not signed is not a defense available to A in a suit by B to enforce the contract against A because A is the party to be charged.

The Four Essentials

Ms. Cliffor in contrast is arguing that no contract was formed.  Under the California Civil Code, the existence of a contract requires:

  • Parties capable of contracting;
  • Their consent;
  • A lawful object; and,
  • A sufficient cause or consideration.

Cal. Civ. Code § 1550.  If Ms. Clifford is to prevail, therefore, she must convince the court that one of these four essentials is wanting from the agreements.