Our group of business litigation attorneys handle many breach of contract claims and lawsuits, and we have the knowledge, experience and expertise to find effective solutions for your case. In analyzing your breach of contract claim, we focus on beneficial solutions to save you time and money.
In today’s world, contract disputes are a most common occurrence. What most people want to know from a qualified attorney in such cases is whether there has been a contractual breach, and what, if any, remedies are available under California law. The answer to these basic questions may not always be straightforward.
The section below provides an overview of generally relevant considerations in the context of breach of contract disputes.
1) For an agreement to be enforceable, does it necessarily have to be in writing?
While it may be preferable to memorialize the parties’ agreement in writing, it is important to note that, as a general matter, oral contracts are just as valid and enforceable as written contracts. In general, proof of an oral contract and its terms may be established by words and/or conduct.
If the agreement is not in writing, then the parties’ statements and conduct become significant. A contract can also be implied by the conduct of the parties. However, implied contracts and oral contracts are usually the most difficult types of contracts to prove. A written contract is the easiest, and this is why attorneys generally advise their clients to put their agreements into writing.
If the contract is in writing, the language of the agreement will be closely scrutinized to determine the scope of the parties’ obligations.
2) How do you determine whether a party has breached its contractual obligations?
By examining the terms of the agreement.
In determining whether there has been a breach of the contract under California contract law, we examine the terms of the agreement to determine the parties’ obligations. If the parties performed their promises under the terms of the contract, then there is no breach. The main element that needs to be established in a breach of contract claim is the other party’s breach. The breach may be a failure to pay money, or the failure to perform some service, deliver goods or take some other action.
For a party to obtain damages, the performing party must have performed his or her obligations under the contract, or there must be a legally valid excuse justifying his or her lack of performance. The performing party may allege that the other party waived the performing party’s performance. However, a party claiming that his or her performance was excused or waived has, in most cases, a much more difficult burden of proof.
3) How do you determine whether a party is entitled to damages for breach of contract?
To recover damages for breach of contract, a Plaintiff must prove all of the following:
- That the parties entered into a contract;
- That Plaintiff did all, or substantially all, of the significant things that the contract required him/her to do or that he/she was excused from doing those things;
- That all conditions required by the contract for Defendant’s performance had occurred or were excused;
- That Defendant either: (1) failed to do something that the contract required him/her to do or (2) did something that the contract prohibited him/her from doing;
- That Plaintiff was harmed by that failure.
4) What are the general rules governing remedies in breach of contract cases?
As a general matter, the rule governing breach of contract remedies is that the injured party is entitled to the benefits he or she would have received if the contract had been performed. This is generally the amount that would compensate the aggrieved party for all the detriment he or she suffered as a result of the breach.
An injured party may obtain damages for lost profits, for his or her expenditures, for interest, and potentially for attorneys’ fees, costs and liquidated damages that are expressly provided for by the agreement.
Each case rests on its own merits and there are different ways to plead and prove a person’s damages. Some remedies under the law are exclusive while in other cases, a client must choose which damages she or he would prefer to obtain.