A contract is an enforceable promise between two or more parties that agree to perform their obligations to each other according to the agreement. Once the promise is fulfilled the contract terms have been satisfied and the parties are discharged from the contract, because they have already fulfilled their legal obligations by way of complete performance.

 

In a perfect world both parties would benefit from the agreement and no disputes would arise. However, sometimes one party fails to perform their obligations. When this happens, it is important to understand the elements involved in a breach of contract claim.

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What is a Breach of Contract?

A breach of contract in Florida occurs when one party fails to perform its contractual obligations. Breach of contract situations can arise with large businesses, small businesses, individuals, and consumers alike.

Some cases involve minor contract disputes known as immaterial disputes. Others are more significant and are often referred to as a total or material breach of contract. The most serious type of breach of contract cases are referred to as fundamental breach of contract violations.

Examples of breach of contract cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to deliver goods
  • Failure to render a service
  • Not completing a job
  • Substituting inferior goods for those promised
  • Failure to pay on time
  • Violation of specific terms in the contract (ie not completing project on time, delivering damaged goods, etc…)
  • Misrepresenting or presenting misleading facts during contract negotiations

The circumstances and situations involving specific contract disputes can vary widely from one agreement to another. That’s why it is important to consult with an experienced contract attorney to explore your legal options.

Is The Contract Valid? – Elements of a Valid, Enforceable Contract

Before determining whether a breach occurred, you must first establish that the contract in question is valid and enforceable according to Florida Law.

In Florida, a valid contract must meet employ the following elements:

  1. Offer – one party made an offer;
  2. Acceptance – the other party accepted the offer;
  3. Consideration – both parties gave consideration;
  4. Certainty – the offer contained definite and certain terms;
  5. Capacity – the parties had the capacity, or legal ability, to enter into the contract; and
  6. Legal activities – the contract terms did not violate state or federal law.

Although most verbal agreements are valid and enforceable in Florida, there are some exceptions to that rule. Primarily defined in Florida’s Statue of Frauds, these exclusions were instituted to prevent fraud and deceit in certain agreements involving goods or continuing for a prolonged period of time.

Under Florida’s fraud law, the following types of agreements are required to be in writing:

  1. Agreements involving the purchase or sale of real estate;
  2. Agreements to pay another person’s debts;
  3. Real estate leases for longer than a period of one year;
  4. Contracts that require more than one year to conclude;
  5. Agreement to pay a debt out of a person’s estate;
  6. Involving the transfer of interest in land; and
  7. Involving the sale of goods greater than $500.

 

If you had a contract that fits in one of those categories, it must be in writing and signed by the other party.

Proving a Breach of Contract Occurred

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the dispute, you will need to determine if there was a breach. This may get tricky, especially if your contract was implied or verbal.

In Florida, a plaintiff will need to prove the following elements to support a breach of contract claim:

  1. There was a valid, enforceable contract between the parties;
  2. There was a material breach of the contract; and
  3. You suffered losses as a result of the breach.

 

Further, to be awarded damages for a breach of contract claim in Florida, the plaintiff must prove the following in court:

 

  1. Plaintiff and defendant entered into a contract;
  2. Plaintiff performed all, substantially all, or was excused from performance of the essential duties required by the contract;
  3. All conditions required by the contract to enable the defendant’s performance had occurred;
  4. Defendant failed perform an essential contractual obligation or the defendant did something prohibited by the contract, and that constraint was essential to the contract; and
  5. The plaintiff suffered damages caused by the defendant’s failure to perform.

 

To clarify, this means the plaintiff needs to demonstrate they fulfilled their obligations, either fully or substantially. Subsequently, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had everything they needed to fulfill their commitment, but they did not.

Material vs. Non-Material Breach of Contract

 

Breach of contract cases vary in seriousness. They can range from minor violations, resulting in minimal impact, to extreme breaches that have deprived the other party of everything promised to them in the contract. As a result, the legal ramifications for a breach of contract are dependent on the severity of the violation.

 

Breach of contract exists in two different forms: a material breach of contract and a non-material breach of contract. When a breach is severe enough to destroy the contract’s integrity, it is called a material breach of contract. In this situation, the injured party is no longer bound by the contract, may revoke the agreement, and seek damages in court for total breach of contract.

 

Conversely, a non-material breach occurs when the breach of contract is negligible to minor to be deemed a material breach. In this case, the injured party can only sue for damages incurred. Once the breach is remedied, the injured party must still perform his contractual obligations, minus any damages caused by the contract’s breach.

Is It Too Late To Sue? – Statute of Limitations on Breach of Contract Claims in Florida

Some Florida residents are not aware of the fact that they have a limited amount of time, also called the “Statute of Limitations,” to file a lawsuit against an individual or company who may have committed a breach of contract. Failing to commence legal action within the specified time period effectively waives your right ever to litigate the matter. Under Florida law, most legal or equitable actions on breach of contract, obligation, or a liability associated with a written contract must be filed within 5 years.

 

However, if the cause of action involves an oral agreement, then the claim must be filed within 4 years. If the injured party seeks the remedy of “special performance,” meaning just wants the other party to do what it was contracted to do, then the claim must be filed within 1 year of the breach of contract.

 

If you are involved in a breach of contract dispute, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney for a consultation regarding your situation.

Remedies for Breach of Contract

If a breach of contract has occurred, then the harmed party may be offered remedy in the form of legal remedies, or monetary damages, equitable remedies, or reparation by Florida courts. Certain principles bind the available legal remedies, and particular damages are awarded only in distinct circumstances. Equitable remedies can be awarded alone or in conjunction with legal remedies. These may include a specified performance obligation, restitution, or injunction. Restitution is the act of restoration of something lost. The defendant must provide the plaintiff with the precise property provided him (specific restitution) or a specified sum of money that reflects the injury caused by the contract’s breach (substitution restitution).

 

A business law attorney is best suited to help you understand your contract terms and whether you or the other party has breached it. Contract law is very complicated. The very creation of a contract along with any potential breaches should be discussed with a contract or business law attorney immediately.

 

Boyer Law Firm, PL has attorneys in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami who are highly knowledgeable concerning business law, contract law, and breach of contract law.

When in Doubt, Ask a Florida Breach of Contract Lawyer

If you suspect you are the victim of breach of contract in Florida, we recommend speaking with an attorney immediately. The clock is ticking on the limited amount of time you have to file a claim.

 

Boyer Law Firm proudly serves residents, families, and businesses all across Florida, as well as abroad in breach of contract matters. We help our clients with various legal issues, including contract claims. Call today so we can discuss your case.