You have often heard that you should read a contract before you sign it. While this is true, the better advice is to make sure you understand the contract before you sign it. Many attorneys love to use fanciful legal jargon that can make it difficult to fully understand the terms and conditions in the contract. As a result, a breach of contract action is often the result of inadvertent failures because the party either failed to read or understand its obligations.
Breach of Contract
The most common type of breach of contract disputes is one that looks back at past actions or inactions. For example, a party failed to perform a duty required by the contract or the party took an action that is prohibited by the agreement. It is important to note that either action or inaction may be the basis of a breach of the contract lawsuit.
It is also possible for a breach to be forward-looking. This is often referred to as an “anticipatory breach” and it occurs when one of the parties either states its intention not to perform, or more frequently, does something to indicate that it will not perform its contractual obligations in the future. Although the time for performance has not arrived, the expression of the party’s intent not to perform can be sufficient to constitute a present breach of contract.
Responding to a Breach
If you are the non-breaching party, you should immediately consider how to minimize your damages. This is crucial because all parties to a contract have the duty to mitigate damages. In other words, you can’t sit back and let your damages mount if there are steps you can reasonably take to lessen them.
Before you suspend your own performance under the contract in response to the other party’s breach, you should have a knowledgeable business attorney review the agreement. It is important to determine whether the other party’s breach is a material or non-material breach. You should also gather and maintain all documentation and other evidence that the breach of contract occurred and your damages suffered as a result.
Litigating Breach of Contract Claims
Lawsuits can often be avoided with open communication. When a breach first occurs, having a clear discussion with the other party will often lead to you finding a way to cure the breach and move forward – saving everyone time and money.
If the dispute cannot be resolved, you will want to review the contract to determine if it has a dispute resolution clause which determines how the dispute will be resolved. You will also want to confer with your attorney regarding any clauses that govern what damages are recoverable in the event of a breach.
If you are entering into a contract and you need assistance understanding what the terms and conditions of the agreement actually mean, call Leslie S. Marell to schedule an initial consultation. She has been practicing business and commercial law for over 25 years. Leslie is established in private practice and has extensive legal experience counseling companies in the areas of business contracts and transactions, purchasing, sales, marketing, computer and technology law, employment law and day to day legal matters. Let us provide your company the advice and guidance you need.