The term contract refers to a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. Contracts can be written or oral. However, in order for most contracts to actually be legally enforceable, they must be made in writing and signed by both or all parties involved. Some of the most common examples of contracts include sales agreements, employment contracts, confidentiality agreements, and insurance contracts. Drafted contracts can be simple or more complex and will generally include the terms of the arrangement, as well as what should be done if someone were to breach the contract.
As such, contract rights are those rights granted to a party through a valid contract. These rights may be expressly written, such as the exclusive rights to copyrighted material. Rights may also be inferred from the contract, such as the party’s right to a fair and equal disclosure of the contract material. These rights exist on both sides of the agreement, meaning that all parties involved in the contract are granted certain rights. An example of this would be one party having the right to purchase a product, with the other party maintaining the right to supply that product to the buyer.
Each specific contract will likely address a different set of rights according to the needs of the parties involved. In addition to contract rights, all parties involved will have contract obligations under the contract terms. These are the duties that each party is legally responsible for. Referring back to the sales example, one party has the obligation to transfer ownership of the property to another party, while the receiving party has the obligation to pay for the property.
The most basic contract right is the right to have all parties involved deal fairly and in good faith in the agreement. This concept is known as the good faith and fair dealing requirement and is implied in every contract. Good faith and fair dealing states that every party involved is to act honestly and in good faith during the contracting process.
In essence, no party may take any action that prevents the purpose of the contract from being achieved. All involved parties must make a reasonable effort to deal honestly with the other party or parties, and must disclose all matters that are essential to the contract. A person is only to enter a contract that they believe, in good faith, they will be able to fulfill.
Some other specific examples of contract rights may include:
- The right to timely and complete monetary payments for all products and services;
- The right to exclusive ownership and use of a product, label, or material;
- The right to resell or transfer ownership rights (although this right may vary with each agreement based on the specific circumstances); and
- The right to litigate or file a lawsuit over a contract dispute, especially over breaches of contract.
Contract rights may sometimes be assigned and delegated to another party. This could be beneficial or even necessary in circumstances such as a construction company needing assistance from another company in order to complete a project. Reassignments and delegations can quite often be complicated, and may require legal assistance in order to ensure good faith and fair dealing practices.
Transferring contract rights to a third party is generally allowable, unless the specific contract prohibits the assignment of rights to a third party. Any rights that arise from a contract may be transferred as long as the transfer of those rights does not materially alter the duties of any other parties involved in the contract.
Additionally, the transfer of rights may not increase the burden of risk imposed by the contract. Parties to the contract may also delegate their duties under the contract to another party, as long as the performance that is owed under the contract does not involve any services or special skills that the other party or parties may specifically want.
If your contract rights have been violated, you may have a legal claim. In order to determine if you do, you should review your contract and any specific provisions related to your contract rights.
Additionally, you may wish to compile other documents as well as witness statements that could help prove exactly how your rights were violated. Before taking any action, you should create a written account of exactly what happened that lead to the violation of your contract rights, and how you believe your rights have been violated.
When a breach of contract occurs, the non-breaching party may still assert their rights and enforce the contract, while suing for damages caused by the breach. Some of the damages that the non-breaching party may be awarded include:
- Compensatory damages, or those that compensate the non-breaching party for their losses;
- Restitution, such as lost wages or medical bills; or
- Punitive damages in order to punish the breaching party when they have engaged in particularly egregious behavior, such as being intentionally negligent.
If you need help with any contract matters, such as determining what your rights are under a contract or defending them should they be violated, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable contract attorney. An experienced contract attorney can review your contract in order to determine whether you have a claim, as well as represent your interests in court.