A breach of contract is a legal phrase that describes a situation when the terms of a contract are not followed completely. A typical contract involves two parties and specifies the terms that each party must follow. When a contract is breached, it means that one of the parties fails to perform an act, provide a service, or sell a good as they promised to the other party when they signed the contract.

Because a contract is a legally binding document, there may be legal consequences involved in a situation where a contract has been breached. The person who breached the contract may be liable for the financial damages caused by their failure to follow the terms of the contract.

What is a Material and Non-Material Breach of a Contract?

In contract law, the two major types of breach of contract claims are a material breach of a contract and a non-material breach.

A non-material breach is a minor breach. A non-material breach will typically not prevent the purpose of the contract from being fulfilled.

An example of a non-material breach would be a situation where a table maker and a table buyer sign a contract for the creation of a custom made table. The contract states that the table maker must finish making the table by 5pm on a Tuesday, but the table was not completed until 5:30 pm. This is a non-material breach because the table was still completed within a reasonable time and neither the table maker nor the table buyer was harmed by this type of breach.

Unlike a non-material breach, a material breach is a major violation of the terms of a contract. A material breach typically harms one person who signed the contract.

An example of a material breach would be a situation where the table maker and table buyer entered into a contract and the table buyer paid a deposit to the table maker but the custom table was never made.

The table buyer would be harmed by this breach because the table buyer relied on the table maker to complete the project. The purpose of the contract in this situation, the creation of a custom table, could not be fulfilled by the material breach.

How Do I Prove a Material Breach of Contract Claim?

In order to prove that a material breach of your contract occurred, you must first show that a contract existed. Typically, contracts are made in writing, but in some cases, a contract may be a verbal or oral promise between two people. Verbal contracts are more difficult to prove, but meetings, phone calls, and text messages may be sufficient to show evidence that a contract existed.  

There also must be evidence that the contract was breached. This can be shown through photos, witness statements, and records of bills or payments made to the other party. The evidence should show that you did not receive services or goods that you paid for, or that the service you received was incomplete or inadequate. For example, if you hire a contractor to paint your house, you may be able to show that the contractor breached the contract by showing photos of your half-painted house.

You must also show evidence that you incurred damages as a result of the material breach of the contract. For example, if you paid a contractor to paint your house, but the contractor never showed up to paint your house, your bank statements could be used to document your financial damages.

What Damages Can I Recover If My Contract was Breached?

If you entered into a contract that was breached by the other party, you may be eligible to recover damages to compensate you for your losses or damages. In some cases, a contract may outline what happens if one party breaches the contract. In other cases, you may have to file a lawsuit in civil court in order to receive compensation from the other party.

The amount of compensation that you are eligible to receive varies depending on the terms of the contract and the jurisdiction where you file your lawsuit. Typically, a breach of contract claim allows compensation for deposit payments, loss of time, loss of value, and the expenses associated with having another person complete the service or provide the goods specified in the breached contract.  

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer If I Am Dealing with a Material Breach?

If you signed a contract that was breached, you may be able to recover your damages on your own by suing the other party. It may be difficult to succeed in a breach of contract lawsuit on your own. A local contract attorney can help you determine if your contract was breached and what your legal rights and compensation options are. For the best outcome in your case, consider contacting an attorney for your breach of contract issue.