What Are the Elements of a Breach of Contract Claim?
Contracts are the backbone of any business. They set the foundation so partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, and service providers all know precisely what is expected of them and what was agreed upon. With a well-written contract in place, you can rest assured knowing you’ve set the groundwork for a successful job. However, even the best-laid plans sometimes go astray and when you experience a breach of contract—either due to your own actions or the actions of the other party—you should consult with an experienced business litigation attorney.
If you’re dealing with a contract violation or breach and would like to speak with a lawyer about your options, contact us at Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC. We’re able to serve individuals and businesses in Stamford, Connecticut, and throughout Fairfield County and New Haven County, including Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Danbury, and Westport.
Breach of Contract
A breach occurs anytime one party violates the contract agreement in some way. Breaches can be both minor and major, and won’t always necessitate litigation. However, in cases where one party suffers substantial setbacks or financial losses, you will likely have to pursue a business lawsuit. Contracts are legally binding and can be used in court to demand payment for damages, but this should only be pursued with the help of an attorney well-versed in contract law.
There are four main categories that contract breaches fall under. Knowing what kind of breach you’re dealing with and the extent of it will help inform your next steps.
Minor breach: As the name implies, a minor breach is smaller in scope, but can still have a significant impact. These are also called “partial” breaches because only a portion of the contract was violated. This could happen if one party failed to deliver a product or service on time and because of this delay, the non-breaching party suffered losses.
Material breach: A material breach occurs when the end product you were supposed to receive is substantially different than what the contract stated. For example, if you ordered new computer monitors for your office but they delivered printers instead, this might be a material breach. In cases like this, the innocent party will likely be able to stop upholding their end of the contract due to the breach.
Actual breach: An actual breach happens when one party in a contract simply refuses to carry out all or a portion of the agreement. For instance, they might fail to show up on an agreed-upon date.
Anticipatory breach (also called anticipatory repudiation): Similar but slightly different to an actual breach, an anticipatory breach is when one party states ahead of the due date that they won’t be fulfilling the terms and conditions of the contract.
Elements of a Breach of Contract Claim
If you want to bring forward a lawsuit against the party that violated the contract, you’ll typically need to fulfill four elements of a claim.
Valid contract: You have the right to bring a lawsuit for any valid contract, and this can be either written or oral. However, if the contract is not legally binding (meaning both parties have signed onto and it fully understood its provisions), then you won’t be able to bring forward a claim.
Your performance: You then must show that you upheld your contract obligations. If you did not, you must present a valid reason why.
The other party’s failure to perform: Now you must provide evidence and documentation that the other party failed to uphold their portion of the contract.
You sustained damages: Lastly, you must prove that because the other party failed to fulfill their obligations, you suffered actual damages.
Understanding Anticipatory Repudiation
When one party in a contract refuses to fulfill the terms and conditions of the agreement and communicates this to the other party, it’s called an anticipatory repudiation (or an anticipatory breach of contract). This is a particular type of breach that is handled somewhat differently than others. To begin, the anticipatory breach can occur in one of three ways:
One party directly states to the other that they won’t carry out their portion of the contract.
One party breaches the contract by transferring the goods or services to a third party (for example, they agree to sell you a car, but then go and sell it to someone else).
One party demonstrates through their conduct that they won’t be fulfilling the contract.
As the innocent party, you can still pursue a claim for damages, but it may be more difficult. For example, if a contractor tells you three months before scheduled work for you that they’re unable to complete the job, and you have enough time to hire another company to do the work, you may not have suffered any actual damages.
Strong & Reliable Legal Help
Whenever a contract is breached, it’s important to reach out to legal advocacy. If you’re in the Stamford, Connecticut area and would like to speak with an attorney about a possible breach of contract, set up a consultation with us at Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC.