We build our businesses on the contracts we agree on with our staff, suppliers, and business partners. A well-written business contract can be the thing that holds us together and keeps the ship afloat, so to speak. But what happens when the contract we sign is not honored? What happens when one party breaches the contract and goes back on the terms agreed upon? In such cases, you may have a breach of contract claim, and you can take legal action to recover damages for your losses.
In Florida business law, a contract breach occurs if at least one party fails to perform one or more of their contractually obligated duties or services. A contract violation can adversely affect a business, supplier, or employee. When we expect others to perform their duties and they do not, it can leave us high and dry, desperate for a foothold.
If another party breaches a contract, you may have a legal claim. However, it is strongly recommended that you work with a legal professional for your breach of contract claim, as these can be hard-fought legal battles if things go to court.
Was There a Valid Business Contract?
Before proceeding any further with your breach of contract claim, one question must be answered: was there a valid contract in the first place? In Central Florida, a valid contract must have certain essential elements to stand up in court.
- An offer was made by one party (a business, employer, partner, etc.).
- Another party accepted that offer.
- Both parties were given time to consider whether the offer was mutually beneficial.
- There was no ambiguity about the critical contract terms.
- Both had the capacity to be willing parties to the contract.
- The contract terms were legal.
If the contract met these requirements and both parties agreed, it would likely be considered a valid business contract. It may not be regarded as valid if it fails to meet these basic requirements.
What Are the Differences Between an Anticipatory, Material, and a Non-Material Breach?
An anticipatory breach occurs when one or more parties involved with a business contract make clear that they have no intention of fulfilling their contractually obligated duties and services.
A material breach occurs when one or more parties fail to carry out their contractually obligated duties and responsibilities previously laid out in the terms of the contract. This breach breaks the terms of the contract. The non-breaching party is no longer required to uphold their end of the contract and may seek legal damages from the offending party if they so choose.
A non-material breach is similar to a material breach, with the difference that it does not prevent the contract from being carried out. A non-material breach must not be met with legal action and does not necessarily cancel the business agreement.
What Elements Must Be Proven in a Florida Breach of Contract Case?
Five elements must be proven by the side of the plaintiff to win a breach of contract case.
The plaintiff and the defendant knowingly and willingly entered into a valid business contract together. Even an orally agreed upon business agreement may be considered valid.
The plaintiff did all of the essential parts of their side of the contract. Some exemptions may apply, such as force majeure events.
The courts want to see that the plaintiff upheld their end of the bargain.
The defendant must have failed to perform a duty or service required of them under contract.
In the failure to perform this duty or service, the plaintiff (company, corporation, partner, etc.) suffered damages as a result.
What Are Considered Strong Breach of Contract Defenses?
Defenses for a breach of contract claim will vary depending upon the type of contract in question and the nature of the supposed breach. While a breach of any kind can cause untold harm to a company or employer, the accused has a right to defend themselves in a court of business law.
Potential defense strategies may include arguing the following:
- The contract may be void if the plaintiff failed to uphold the duties established in their contract.
- The contract was fraudulent.
- The contract was signed under duress.
- The defendant lacked the mental capacity to sign the business contract.
- The five-year statute of limitations.
What Are Potential Remedies to a Breach of Contract?
If the court orders that a party breached their contract, they may require that remedies take effect to make the hurt party whole again. The categories of remedies are split into two categories: equitable remedies and legal remedies.
Equitable remedies include:
- Specific performance.
Legal remedies include:
- Compensatory damages.
- General damages.
- Mitigating damages.
- Punitive damages.
- Special damages.
Damages are not guaranteed. Working with a lawyer will improve your chances of recovering damages, however. Please get in touch with our law firm to learn more about the legal services we offer.
Contact Us to Speak with Experienced Business Law Attorneys About Your Breach of Contract Claim
If you believe a contract breach has occurred, you have the right to take legal action. Successfully winning damages in a breach of contract claim can be challenging as you will need to prove several elements in your case. For legal assistance, you are encouraged to retain legal counsel. Lankford Law Firm has extensive experience in business law representing clients across Central Florida.
Our law firm is a smaller firm, but that allows us to provide dedicated legal representation more efficiently at lower rates. To learn more about the legal services we offer, please get in touch with our Daytona Beach-based law offices by calling us at 850-888-8992.