If you or your business is facing a breach of contract lawsuit, then you need to take swift action. In Florida, there are potential ‘affirmative defenses’ that you can use to justify the steps taken in making or breaking a contract.
You should take action to defend a breach of contract claim quickly, with the help of a Florida contract lawyer. If you delay, you may be prevented from using these defenses in the future.
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What Are Breach of Contract Claims?
Breach of contract claims are legal claims made against a party for violating agreed-upon terms and conditions of a legally binding contract.
Contracts are binding and hold up in a court. If proven that the contract has been breached, the party that has suffered damage can usually recover their losses and what they were originally promised. A breach of contract is not a criminal offense, or tort. Punitive damages are rarely awarded.
The Key Factors of Breach of Contract
There Must Be a Valid Contract
Firstly, there must have been a valid contract in the first place by meeting the following requirements:
- A party made an offer
- The other party accepted the offer
- Both parties considered the contract and offer;
- There were clear contract terms
- Both parties had the capacity to enter the contract
- The contract terms were legal
Common Examples of Breach of Contract Claims in Florida include:
- The failure to pay the money agreed upon;
- Failure to complete work by a deadline;
- Not completing work or providing a product to the quality promised in the contract;
- Failure to deliver or provide a product or service;
What to Do Next to Defend a Breach of Contract Claim?
Contact a Contract Lawyer
It’s almost always not sufficient to simply deny the breach of contract claim. You’ll need to respond with justifiable evidence and arguments for your actions (or lack of actions).
The first thing you should do is contact a Florida contract lawyer. Delaying only gives the other party the upper hand. We welcome you to contact our experienced and highly-rated lawyers today for a free consultation.
You can defend a breach of contract claim in Florida by making as many alternative defenses as you want. But you must have a convincing argument with evidence. Saving old emails, letters and paperwork are advised.
Affirmative Defense to a Breach of Contract Claim
Defenses to breach of contract claims in Florida are called ‘affirmative defenses‘. They are raised by the defendant and, if the dispute goes to trial, must be proven by the defendant.
These defenses do not argue the fact that there was a breach of contract. Instead, they argue that there were circumstances and justified reasons behind the breach. The success of these defenses is significantly impacted by the imagination and skills of your contract lawyer.
Here are some common examples of how to defend breach of contract claims in Florida:
An indefinite contract is where the terms were never agreed upon. In this case, the contract was not considered final, or the essential terms were not present. Indefinite contracts can be considered unenforceable.
For example, it may not be clear in the contract how long it should last or what the specifics of the service were.
You may be able to claim that a mistake to an essential fact in the contract was made by both parties. For example, both parties made mutual mistakes regarding the date that the service was supposed to be provided. However, this can’t be used to defend a mistake in judgment by one party.
You Didn’t Have the Capacity to Sign the Contract
Both parties must have the capacity to sign a contract. If you lack capacity (such as not being able to understand the deal), then the contract may be invalid.
A common example where this happens is when it involves minors or people with mental incapacities or illnesses.
Contracts involving fraud, such as lies, duress, or undue influence are invalid. If you can prove this happened to you, then you can get the breach of contract claim dropped.
For example, a real estate agent was being paid by the seller to advise you to purchase a property.
Contracts that are considered ‘grossly unfair’ are called ‘unconscionable’ and can be used as defenses to breach of contract claims. Contracts such as these often involve one party taking advantage of their power by forcing obscene clauses, waivers, or unfair conditions on the other.
If a party excuses you from a term of the contract, but then claims you breached it for the term excused, then you defend the claim by proving so.
For example, if a real estate developer tells a contractor to ignore a deadline, but then comes back and says it was ignored, then they can claim ‘estoppel’.
If the agreement in the contract is illegal, then the contract is void. For example, if it involves tax violations or the bypassing of legal obligations for the service (such as contractor licensing) then you can claim it is illegal.
However, sometimes the illegal part of the contract may be separated from the rest by the court.
Possible Remedies for Breach of Contract Claims in Florida
If there is a valid breach of contract in Florida, then you will need to find a remedy for the situation. These include:
Rescissions effectively undo the contract. For example, if the contract was for the transfer of goods from one party to the other (upon payment), and the transfer never happened, then the plaintiff could ask that the contract is reversed so they don’t have to pay.
Compensatory damages can be agreed upon to compensate the party who has suffered as a result of the breach of contract.
- General damages cover the actual value the plaintiff lost. Such as the difference in value between what they were expecting to pay and what they’ll need to pay someone else to complete the order or service.
- Special damages cover losses that were indirectly caused by the breach of contract action. Such as the loss of profits for goods they could have sold.
- Punitive damages aren’t usually used in breach of contract cases, unless the breaching party committed a particularly damaging act such as fraud.
- The non-breaching party should also take steps to lessen their damages.
Contact a Florida Contract Lawyer Today
If you’re being sued for breaching a contract in Florida, then our Florida breach of contract lawyers can help.
Caitlin Szematowicz at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. has extensive experience that can help you in every step of the sale, from breach of contract remedies to defending you in court.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.