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A party to the contract in a breach-of-contract claim must prepare and file a civil complaint against the party believed to be breaching the contract. The person filing the suit is the plaintiff, and the person responding to the suit is the respondent or defendant. In contract law, a breach means a respondent has violated an agreement in some manner. Generally, a complaint asserting a breach-of-contract claim must contain certain claims against the breaching party. The plaintiff’s complaint must state that there is a valid contract, how the parties formed the contact, how the respondent breached the contract, and a request for relief.
The first essential question, in the eyes of the court, is whether there is a valid contract between the parties. This will require the person initiating the breach-of-contract claim to assert each fact, which shows how the parties formed a valid contract. A valid contract typically requires mutual assent and consideration. Mutual assent means the parties both agreed at the same time to an offer and to certain terms. The law refers to this as a meeting of the minds.
A valid contract also requires consideration between the parties. Consideration means the parties exchange something of value that makes them want to agree to the contract terms. For example, Peter promises to sell David a used car in exchange for David’s promise to pay him $1,000 US Dollars (USD).
Next, the plaintiff, the person making a breach-of-contract claim, will need to allege that the respondent breached the agreement. A breach occurs when a party to the contract fails to perform an act required by the agreement. The plaintiff must also ensure that a defendant has no valid defenses to a breach-of-contract claim. A valid defense will prevent the court from enforcing the agreement. This will result in the court dismissing the breach-of-contract claim.
Typical defenses to a breach-of-contract claim are statute of frauds, unconscionability, and lack of capacity. Statute of frauds requires certain contracts to be in writing, which means if nothing is in writing, then there is no contract. Unconscionability means that certain terms of the agreement are oppressive and unjust to one party, which means a court will deny enforcement of such terms. Lack of capacity usually arises when a party has not reached legal age to enter a contract or because of a mental impairment. If a court finds that a party lacks capacity, it will void the contract.
If a plaintiff making a breach-of-contract claim establishes that there was a valid agreement, that there are no defenses and that the defendant breached the agreement, the court will enter an order in favor of the plaintiff. The remedies will depend on the type of contract and the circumstances of each case. The court's objective generally will be to put each party in a position contemplated by the agreement. Thus, a court could order a party to perform the obligations required by the contract. If performance of the contract is not workable, then the court may order a defendant to pay damages to the plaintiff.
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