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How to File a Breach of Contract Lawsuit

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Where Do I File a Breach of Contract Lawsuit?

A breach of contract can present serious challenges to any business or individual, regardless of whether that breach was material or minor. Understanding how to file a breach of contract lawsuit is crucial if you need a remedy for your losses. Most breach of contract claims involve three basic elements of proof:

  1. Valid Contract: The contract must be valid. Illegal contracts or contracts that weren’t formed properly can’t be enforced in court.
  2. Breach of Contract Terms: In order to recover for your claim, you must prove that there was a material violation of contract terms. That is, minor errors or technical shortcomings generally don’t qualify as a breach.
  3. Damages: You must be able to prove your losses to a reasonable degree of certainty. Although many lawsuits result in a monetary damages award, courts can sometimes order other remedies such as specific performance (requiring the breaching party to perform their contractual duties).

The specific requirements for this lawsuit will vary depending on state laws, as well as the nature of the contract’s subject matter. Generally speaking, it’s easier to prove a breach for a written contract rather than an oral contract. 

What Types of Remedies Are Available in a Breach of Contract Claim?

Remedies for a contract lawsuit can be divided into two basic types: monetary damages and equitable remedies. These are described as follows:

  • Monetary Damages: These are typically composed of a compensatory damages award that is meant to reimburse the non-breaching party for their losses associated with the breach. Other types of damages may be awarded, such as nominal damages. Punitive damages are rarely awarded for this type of issue.
  • Equitable Remedies: Equitable remedies generally don’t involve monetary payments to the plaintiff.  Instead, they require that the parties take some form of action. There are three different forms of equitable remedies:
    • Specific Performance: This is where the breaching party is required to fulfill their contractual obligations and duties (for example, delivering goods).
    • Contract Rescission: The parties are allowed to rewrite a portion of the contract in order to resolve the dispute.
    • Contract Reformation: The contract is cancelled, and the parties may be allowed to write a new one.

In some jurisdictions, the plaintiff needs to choose between either a damages award or an equitable remedy. In other words, they usually can’t choose both monetary damages and an equitable remedy. The choice of remedies needs to be done at filing, so it’s important to understand the remedy options when learning how to file a lawsuit.

Are There Any Defenses to a Contract Breach?

Yes – there are several different kinds of defenses available, including:

  • Incapacity to Form a Contract: Both parties need the legal capacity to form a contract. For example, it’s a defense if one of the parties is not mentally competent to form a contract.
  • Misrepresentation/Fraud: The contract cannot be formed under circumstances involving fraud or misrepresentation.
  • Duress/Coercion: Similarly, the contract can’t be formed in situations involving undue pressure or physical threats.
  • Unconscionable Contract: A contract may be declared void if it is “unconscionable,” or so one-sided that it’s unfair to one party.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Breach of Contract Lawsuit?

Breach of contract lawsuits involve many different aspects, including elements of proof, remedies, and possible defenses. If you need more information or guidance on how to file a lawsuit, you may wish to hire a contracts lawyer for assistance. Your attorney will be able to go over the facts of your claim, and can help you file the court documents. An experienced lawyer can represent you during the court proceedings. 

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 04-17-2017 10:52 PM PDT

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