Breach of Contract: Legal Remedies That Can Be Pursued
No matter whether contracts are written or oral, they are meant to fulfill a promise – and when they’re broken, the non-breaching party can pursue legal remedies. Breach of contract is one of the leading causes of lawsuits for damages and court-ordered “specific performance” of the contract in the U.S. courts.
Business contracts are a key element for the business world. They make sure that individuals and corporations keep their promises and fulfill their obligations. In essence, contracts are an idea backed by confidence and that confidence is supported by the legal system. It, however, is important to remember that no matter whether a contract is written or oral, it can be legally enforced.
When individuals or businesses fail to perform any particular term of a contract without a legitimate excuse, it is called a breach of contract. There are many ways that someone can breach a contract. It can include failure to complete a job, starting a job too late, failure to deliver goods as promised, not paying on time, not paying in full, or any move on their part which shows that they will not complete their work as promised (termed an anticipatory breach).
A breach of contract can occur one time or it can be a series of continued breaches; should this occur, the injured party can file a civil lawsuit. The remedies for contractual breaches are not designed to punish the breaching party, however, they are meant to place the injured party into the same position they would be in if it weren’t for the breach.
When a contract is broken, the non-breaching party is relieved of his obligations under the contract, because of the other party’s breach. When this happens, the courts very well may award damages as a result of the breach. In cases where monetary damages are inadequate to compensate the injured party, a court may award “specific performance,” which forces the breaching party to fulfill their end of the agreement (contract).
As discussed above, there are two general categories of relief for breach of contract: damages and performance. Damages refer to monetary compensation, whereas performance involves forcing the breaching party to do what they originally promised to do in the contract. A business litigation attorney who specializes in contract law can help you determine which method is best to settle your particular contract dispute.
Before you file a breach of contract lawsuit, you should learn more about the different types of remedies available to you. Some people simply desire monetary compensation in order to make up for the grief the other side caused them whereas others want them to carry out their side of the agreement.
Monetary damages can include compensatory damages (compensation for your losses), consequential and incidental damages (foreseeable damages), attorney fees (can only be recovered if included in the contract), liquidated damages (must be specified in the contract if there is a fraud), and punitive damages.
Of course, the relative laws in force and the particular conduct of the breaching party will determine which kind of damages are awarded and how much. The more unconscionable the conduct, coupled with intentional behavior, the greater the chances you will be awarded larger punitive damages on behalf of the breach. In cases where the breach arose out of gross negligent behavior, compensatory and consequential damages are more likely to be received.
When money cannot make up the damage, sometimes the other side will be ordered to perform their duties. This remedy is more common with real estate transactions, since the courts prefer not to get involved with monitoring because it takes up too much time and expense.
Other remedies include rescission where the contract is canceled and both parties are excused from further performance and any deposits are returned. Another option is reformation where the terms of the contract are altered in order to accommodate what both parties originally intended.
Before you file a lawsuit, you should discuss your case with a business litigation lawyer who can review the contract for you. There may be limitations or notice requirements contained within your contract that may have waived your ability to pursue contractual remedies. An attorney will also give you a clear understanding of how much full litigation would cost. There may be alternative dispute resolutions available to you that can save money and time in the long run.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Law Offices of Reimer & Rosenthal
The Law Offices of Reimer & Rosenthal is a business law firm serving clients throughout the state of Florida. Their firm is recognized for their outstanding business, construction and commercial tenant litigation. They have also received outstanding recognition including an AV rating for premier professional and ethical standards by Martindale-Hubbell®. Furthermore, Mr. Rosenthal was recognized in the Miami Herald as one of South Florida’s Top Lawyers for 2011. If you choose to use their firm, you can be rest assured that they will be handling your case with the utmost professionalism, and they will be using their unsurpassed knowledge relating to business litigation.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.