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John John Florence, one of the best surfers in the world, has launched a high-profile lawsuit against the Monster Energy company in California. The celebrity surfer is suing for breach of contract over an verbal agreement that was later confirmed in an email from a company executive to compensate Florence for the use of his likeness.

Despite using Florence’s likeness in its advertising since 2017, Monster has allegedly failed to properly compensate the surfer. Florence’s representatives claim that the company agreed to retroactive payments but then mailed him a contract for his signature that was substantially different from that upon which they’d already agreed.

Monster denies the allegations. Essentially, the company representatives say that Florence’s allegations are invalid because the contract he believed he was negotiating was never put into writing.

This isn’t the first time Monster Energy has had serious allegations leveled against it. The company also was cited in the past for allegations of sexual discrimination, assault and other problems with employee treatment. Critics allege that the energy drink giant is abusive in its treatment of employees and business associates. The surfer’s lawsuit may be perceived as further indication that the company isn’t willing to “play fair” in negotiations.

Lawsuits like this can garner an unpleasant amount of negative publicity for a company and damage their brand. It’s important for companies to understand that contracts don’t have to be in writing to still be valid. While it may be hard to validate an unwritten contract in court, it doeis possible — and emails from a company executive might be considered solid evidence of an offer.

If you own a company, don’t take contract negotiations lightly or assume that you can substantially change an offer once it has been negotiated without conflict. The best way to avoid litigation over a contract dispute is to get solid legal advice every step of the way.