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If you don’t Understand your Contract, It can be Costly!

You have probably heard that is it important to thoroughly read a contract before you sign it. However, reading it is only half of it – you must also make sure you understand your rights and obligations under it. Whether this means you confer with an attorney or read the contract five times over, it is essential.

Joe Wickline, a coach for the University of Texas football team, may have learned this lesson the hard way. Texas University hired Wickline in 2014 as its offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. When Wickline was hired, he was still under contract with Oklahoma State University (OSU). The OSU agreement permitted Wickline to leave without penalty, but only if certain requirements had been met. OSU believed that Wickline had not met the required conditions for leaving and filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Wickline seeking $600,000 in damages. Wickline filed a countersuit against OSU in a Texas court.

Wickline’s countersuit was dismissed by the Texas judge due to a provision in the contract that required all litigation to be filed in Payne County, Oklahoma. The lawsuit filed by OSU for breach of contract was filed in Payne County and is still pending. In short, OSU seeks to prove that Wickline is not controlling the play calls for the Longhorns. If this can be established, OSU will recover the damages it seeks because Wickline will have made a lateral move to Texas and failed to take a promotion with “play-calling duties,” as required to avoid penalty in his contract with OSU. Thus far, the University of Texas has not been named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

It remains to be seen whether Wickline met the requirements for terminating his OSU contract, but his case demonstrates how costly it can be if you do not understand your rights and duties under a contract.

If you are entering a contract and you are not sure you fully understand all of its terms and conditions, let Leslie S. Marell assist you. We serve as general counsel to clients who do not require, or choose not to employ, a full-time lawyer in-house. Call today to schedule your initial consultation.