You hear about individuals or businesses breaching contracts all the time. It is a fairly routine type of lawsuit filed in court. If you have a contractual dispute where you think the other party breached an agreement you had – or thought you had – consider the following questions before pursuing a breach of contract claim.
1. Do I have an enforceable contract? To establish a breach of contract claim, you must first have a valid, binding and enforceable contract. Depending on the subject matter at issue, a contract can be written or oral, though written agreements are stronger and more likely to hold up in court. Under California’s statute of frauds, contracts that must be in writing include: (1) Any agreement such that its terms may not be completed within a year; (2) A promise to pay the debt of another; (3) An agreement for the lease of a property for a period exceeding one year in length, or for the sale of real property; (4) The party to be charged must sign the written agreement; (5) An agreement establishing that an agent or broker has the authority to purchase, sell, or lease real estate for a period exceeding one year; (6) An agreement that will not be performed during the lifetime of the promisor; (7) An agreement by a purchaser of real property to establish indebtedness by paying a mortgage; and (8) An agreement to loan money worth more than $100,000 made by a person whose business is to lend. The lawyers at Bezdik Kassab can assist you with identifying whether you have an enforceable contract to bring a breach of contract lawsuit or defend against one.
2. Did the party signing the contract breach the agreement? In addition to establishing that an agreement existed between the parties, you must also show that the party breached the contract and did not make good on his or her promise. The breach must be material. In other words, the failure to perform must be significant enough to give the wronged party the right to sue for breach of contract.
3. Has my time to file a lawsuit passed? Before filing a lawsuit, you must determine if the statute of limitations on your claim has passed. In order to promote finality, the statute of limitations sets the maximum time the parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense. In California, the statute of limitations for a breach of written contract claim is 4 years from the date of the breach or rescission and 2 years for a breach of oral contact. There are exceptions that can continue or toll the statute of limitations, including the delayed discovery and equitable tolling doctrines. Consult with Bezdik Kassab to determine whether you have a viable claim or defense to a breach of contract claim.
4. Have I suffered damages as a result of the breach? It is not enough to show that you have an enforceable contract and the party breached. You must also show that you suffered harm or damages as a result of the breach. There are several forms of damages that you can potentially recover including: (1) General damages, which are consequential damages as a foreseeable result of a breach; (2) Special damages, which are incidental damages that flow indirectly from the breach; (3) Liquidated damages, which are included in some contracts, allowing for a monetary amount that a party owes to another in the event of a breach; and/or (4) Specific performance, where if monetary damages doesn’t make one whole, a court may require a defendant to perform their obligations under the contract. Bezdik Kassab can help you identify what damages you may be entitled to under the law.
5. Can I recover my attorney fees that I spent fighting this lawsuit? Attorney fees are recoverable either by statute or contract. Review your contract to determine if it includes an attorney fees provision. Depending on what it says, you may be able to recover your attorney fees in the event you prevail in your breach of contract claim. Contact Bezdik Kassab to help evaluate your breach of contract claim and to determine if you can potentially be awarded the recovery of your fees.
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