North Carolina Common Law Parol Evidence Rule

BY Caroline N. Brown

This article evaluates the application of the parol evidence rule by the courts in North Carolina. The article explores the tortured and murky history of the rule, to which many of the difficulties associated with its application are surely attributable. Although the North Carolina courts do a fine job with certain groups of cases, including those with merger clauses, this article points out the continuation and exacerbation of an earlier tendency to avoid real analysis by citing and quoting fragments of the parol evidence rule seemingly at random. Especially alarming is the obvious omission of serious inquiry into the parties’ intention to make a final writing. Because it is subsumed within the issue of completeness by the courts, there is a strong likelihood that finality will be assumed or presumed by the courts even in cases where the writing is informal and rudimentary. The liberal tendency marked by prior commentators to admit extrinsic evidence that is credible and not contradictory is still observable, but it is now challenged by a line of cases that applies a stringent “four corners” test. The unpredictable and chaotic state of the parol evidence rule in North Carolina poses a serious enough threat to most contracts to warrant intervention and explication of the rule by the state supreme court.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 87 N.C. L. Rev.1699 (2009)