A breach of contract can present serious challenges to any business or individual, regardless of whether that breach was material, meaning a large deviation from the contract terms, or minor or anticipatory. 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 four basic elements of proof:
- Valid Contract: The contract must be valid. Illegal contracts that were not formed properly can’t be enforced in court. While oral agreements may be enforceable, they may be more difficult to prove in court than written agreements.
- Performance: You must be able to show that you held up your end of the agreement.
- 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. Anticipatory breaches can be very difficult to prove in court and receive a remedy for.
- 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. As stated above, it’s easier to prove a breach for a written contract rather than an oral contract.
If you knowingly breached a contract, it’s important that you try to take the necessary steps to fix your breach. Either before the other party is aware or before the other party files a lawsuit.
First, read the contract and find out if the contract states what you should do if either party breaches. A contract can say that the agreement is over and there is no fixing the situation, or the contract can say you have a certain number of days to fix the problem before the other party is allowed to file a claim.
Second, if you are unable to fully fix the breach, either you have a partial breach or a material breach, then (in good faith) you should inform the other party. While it might seem to your advantage to hide or avoid the fact that you breached, and instead force the other person to figure it out, the reality is that you will appear favorably before the court. This means that you are less likely to face serious punishments, so long as you acted in good faith and did your best to minimize the damages.
Third, be prepared to compromise and find another way to meet the requirements of the contract. The courts want to see and hear that the parties worked together to fix the situation as best as they can. Taking the right steps on your part can help your argument in court.
If the other party breached the contract, then you are in your right to file a lawsuit. However, much like the above, there are certain steps you should be prepared to take.
First, read the contract! Find out what you can do in the event of a breach. Did the other party delay in letting you know? Is there a liquidated damages clause that goes into immediate effect? Does the other party have a grace period to fix their error? Your contract will let you know your options.
Second, it’s in your best interest to give the other party a chance to fix the breach. If they cannot fully fix the problem but offer a compromise that can still meet your needs, then it’s a good idea to work with them and find a solution that works.
However, you are not obligated to accept a remedy that doesn’t fix the issue or at least, would not compensate you for the breach. If the other party refuses to make up for the breach, or the contract says that your next step is to file a lawsuit, then you can go to the third step.
Third, once you know that you tried other options, the next step is to file a lawsuit with your local court. Be sure to collect all relevant documents, from the contract that was breached to any emails that show what efforts or communication were made before and after the breach.
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 local contract 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.