Breaching a contract has consequences in California, and the plaintiff can recover damages from the person responsible for the breach.
There are four components of a breach of contract case that anyone entering a contract should understand.
A valid contract is a legal agreement, enforceable by law, to do or not do something. Contracts containing promises to perform illegal actions are not valid.
The plaintiff’s performance
The plaintiff in a breach of contract case must prove that they fulfilled their contractual obligations. This means showing they are in compliance with all material conditions they agreed to perform when signing the contract. If they could not perform some or all of their duties, they must also address non-performance when filing a complaint. Some common excuses include:
- The defendant prevented plaintiff from fulfilling some or all of their duties.
- The defendant waived plaintiff’s obligation(s) to perform.
- Performing the duties became impossible.
If the issue stopping the plaintiff from completing the contract is temporary, the excuse is only valid during the time the hindrance occurred.
The defendant’s breach of contract
The defendant’s breach must be an unexcused and unjustified failure to perform their obligations. This can include a specific act required under the contract or a failure to act. Additionally, the defendant cannot intentionally place the ability to fulfil their duties out of their own power.
However, the defendant can sometimes avoid performance if the object or subject of the contract was destroyed or eliminated through no fault of the defendant.
The plaintiff’s damages
Anytime someone fails to uphold their part of the agreement, whether they fully or partially breach the contract, they may be liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff. If a contract provides for the recovery of attorneys’ fees in the event of a breach, those can also be recovered by the plaintiff if it prevails in the lawsuit.
Several circumstances can complicate a breach of contract case, but California law generally protects those wronged by the breach.