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What is a breach of contract?

Breach of contract occurs when one party fails to perform their obligations under a legally binding agreement without a legal excuse. Such failures can include failure to deliver goods or services, pay, or meet other terms outlined in the contract.

For example, suppose Party A entered into a contract with Party B to purchase a specific piece of real estate. The contract includes a closing date and a purchase price. If Party A fails to show up on the closing date or pay the agreed-upon purchase price, Party B could seek legal action for breach of contract. In addition, party B could try to have the contract enforced with specific performance and receive damages for any losses from the breach.

Keep in mind that disputes over a breach of contract typically belong in civil court. Unless fraud is involved, a breach of contract does not amount to a criminal matter.

Need help with a breach of contract claim? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.

What legal issues typically arise related to a breach of contract?

The following disputes are among the most common breaches of contract:

  • Contract formation-In some cases, it is not always obvious when or if the parties formed a contract. Under Florida law, a plaintiff proves the existence of a contract by showing that the parties had a “meeting of the minds” as to the contract’s essential terms.
  • Contract interpretation-When the alleged nonperformance does not violate any term of the contract, an action for breach will not succeed. Therefore, it becomes essential to understand the terms of the contract and interpret any ambiguities to understand if and when a breach occurred.
  • Provisions limiting remedies-Florida law allows parties to a contract to contractually limit the remedies available in the event of a breach. However, these provisions are not consistently enforced and depend on the facts of a particular case.

What are relevant laws related to breach of contract in Florida?

Much of Florida law related to breach of contract claims comes from common law, or case law, based on the previous judicial decisions of Florida courts. Florida courts can decide how to interpret a contract, whether and when an agreement will be enforced, and whether specific provisions of a contract will be enforced, as well as many other breach of contract issues. However, here are some

Florida statutes one should also keep in mind related to a breach of contract claim in the state of Florida:

  • Section 685.01: This statute allows parties to agree that Florida law will govern a contract if the contract is in the category described by the statute.
  • Section 95.11: This statute sets the statute of limitations for breach of contract claims in Florida, which is typically within five years of the contract’s formation. However, this period may vary depending on the type of contract.

What is required to prove a case of breach of contract in Florida?

To prove a case of breach of contract in Florida, a party must establish the following:

  • The existence of a valid contract;
  • A material breach of the contract by the other party;
  • Damages suffered by the non-breaching party as a result of the breach; and
  • The plaintiff’s performance of their obligations under the contract or a legal excuse for any nonperformance.

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of Breach of Contract, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as:

  • Monetary damages
  • Specific performance

To see what actions may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What are common defenses to breach of contract in Florida?

The primary defenses to breach of contract in Florida include:

  • Waiver: In some circumstances, the performance of a contract by one party can be waived by the other party, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Prevention of performance: Sometimes, one party’s cooperation is a prerequisite to the performance of the other. If a party refuses to cooperate, this can sometimes be “prevention of performance” and excuse any nonperformance or breach.
  • Impossibility: Under Florida law, a contract obligation can generally be made impossible by three things: an Act of God, the law, or another party.
  • Statute of Limitations: The defense may argue that the statute of limitations bars the breach of contract action
  • Duress: The defense argues that one party was forced to enter the contract under threat of harm or intimidation.
  • Mistake: The defense argues that one or both parties made a mistake when entering into the contract, which would make it unenforceable.
  • Unconscionability: The defense argues that the court should not enforce the contract because it is oppressive or one-sided.

One core strategy of defending against breach of contract claims is to disprove some of the elements the plaintiff must prove to sustain the cause of action. For instance, if there is proof that no valid contract existed or that the defendant did not commit a  material breach, the plaintiff would be without a case.

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Have more questions about a Breach of Contract-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of Breach of Contract does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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