Do Craigslist Agreements Count as Binding Contracts? Lawyer Says Yes

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COLORADO  --  Many people use Craigslist to buy and sell various items, but not everybody may think of these transactions as legally binding agreements.

FOX31's Emily Allen talked to a Colorado couple who may now be facing a lawsuit following a sale of car parts.

Will and Emery Sidebotham put car brakes up for sale on Craigslist and initially agreed to sell it to one interested buyer for $2,000 after exchanging text messages about the ad. When someone else contacted them offering $2,500 in cash, though, Will sold the parts to the buyer offering more money.

"I have a guy standing in front of me with money in hand, ready to purchase these parts, so obviously that was a motivation to sell right then and there," said Will.

When he told the first buyer the deal was off, the man threatened to sue, saying Will breached their contract.

"These were just informal text messages on a first name basis. I don't even know the guy's last name," said Emery.

FOX31 crews contacted law professor Tom Russell to see if the messages did, in fact, serve as a binding agreement. The verdict: they did.

"This is just how contracts work actually," said Russell. "A Craigslist deal is a contract like any other contract, really. In this case, both sides agreed on a price, and even though it's through informal texts, it's still an enforceable contract. This is really not very different than how business gets done at much higher levels."

Now, the buyer could sue Will for damages.

The Sidebothams say this is a lesson for everyone.

"The reality is people need to protect themselves and say the right things and make sure when you're doing these online transactions with people, that you are really specific in how you word things," said Emery.

While the Sidebothams sit idle wondering if they'll have to go to court, they hope others will think carefully before giving a buyer the green-light.

Officials say the best way to avoid this situation is to stay true to what you promise a buyer and set conditions for the agreement. This could include meeting at a specific time and date with a pre-determined amount of money, and agreeing the deal is void if these conditions are not met.