Common Contract Breach Defenses

Business clients sitting with attorney

Contracts can be extremely helpful for ensuring that both parties receive what they agree upon. Unfortunately, sometimes contracts are breached and one or both parties fail to uphold their promises. This sometimes occurs when a contract lacks important information, therefore leading to a dispute. 

Proving that there has been a breach of contract is not always easy since each contract generally contains a number of conditions, covenants, and duties. When you have contingent conditions, it can make this determination more difficult. 

Elements of a Contract

To prove liability, Virginia requires a plaintiff to provide evidence that the other party failed to meet the terms of the contract. This is because there is an implied standard of good faith.

There are three elements that the plaintiff must demonstrate:

  1. There is a legally enforceable agreement;
  2. The other party breached that agreement; and
  3. There were actual damages caused by the breach of contract.

When a contract is drafted, it generally requires several elements to be considered legally enforceable. These include:

  • The legal names of the parties involved;
  • The rights and obligations of each party;
  • Representations or warranties;
  • Terms and/or conditions required of each party;
  • Consideration (a promise for a promise);
  • Consequences in the event that one party breaches the contract; and
  • The financial remedies of a breach of the contract. 

It’s so important to include the above elements because without them the contract becomes much more difficult to enforce. The more details provided in the contract, generally the better, as this helps to prevent disputes.

Always Get it in Writing

While they don’t have to be in writing, it’s usually a good idea to write the contract down. This is especially true for real estate transactions, debt situations (one party is responsible for the others’ debt), and longer agreements. This serves to protect the interest of both parties.

Legal Defenses to Breach of Contract

It’s important to note that not all breaches are punishable under the law. There are some legal defenses to a breach of contract. These include:

  • The plaintiff waived the breach;
  • The plaintiff breached first;
  • The plaintiff committed fraud when creating the contract;
  • One party took advantage of the other; and
  • Both parties operated under a mutual mistake at the time the contract was created.

Damages for Breach of Contract

If a court finds that an indefensible legal breach has occurred, the plaintiff is entitled to damages, including:

  • Compensatory damages (the damages suffered due to the breach)
  • Consequential damages (foreseeable damages suffered as a direct result of the breach)
  • Punitive damages; (to punish the defendant)
  • Liquidated damages; (damages previously agreed upon and listed in the contract) and
  • Injunctions/equitable relief (awarded when a specific value can’t be placed on the breach).

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Have Suffered a Breach of Contract

When you have suffered a breach of contract, it can have a tremendous impact on your business and your life. You should never have to pay for someone else’s mistakes. This is why it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced contract attorney who has experience dealing with these types of cases. 

At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we will fight to get you the compensation that you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Contracts