The Third Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the complaint stated a cause of action for breach of contract. The complaint alleged the agreement to convey a farm to a partnership was subject to an exception to the statute of frauds for part performance:
“General Obligations Law § 5-703 (4) has carved out an exception to the statute of frauds to permit courts of equity to compel the specific performance of agreements in cases of part performance” … . “A party’s partial performance of an alleged oral contract will be deemed sufficient to take such contract out of the statute of frauds only if it can be demonstrated that the acts constituting partial performance are unequivocally referable to said contract” … .
In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he drastically changed his behavior after the agreement, including leaving his studies at Cornell University to devote his full attention to the partnership. Plaintiff also claims that he moved onto the subject premises, that he contributed financially to the business, which was struggling under burdensome mortgage payments, and that defendant referred to him as his business partner and co-owner of the farm. Plaintiff also made substantial improvements to both his residence on the farm, in which he resided full time, and to the farm itself. Given that all of these actions are unequivocally referable to the alleged oral agreement, we find that dismissal of the complaint under CPLR 3211 (a) (5) based upon the statute of frauds was improper … . Leonard v Cummins, 2021 NY Slip Op 04269, Third Dept 7-8-21