If you're a business owner or a have entered into a contract with someone, there are important rules that govern the execution and performance of the contract. The contract binds both parties to the provisions included within the document. Breaking these provisions, may open you or the offending party up to damages. Contract law cases can be tricky to prove in court, especially if the contract is not clear. That's why business lawyers and commercial lawyers exist; to help their clients understand the burden of what their clients have to prove in contract law lawsuit. They also can help their clients prepare and negotiate good, clear contracts. Here are the four things a plaintiff seeking a claim for breach of contract must prove in order to win their case and collect damages:
Four Pillars Of Proof
Below are the four steps, or elements, that a plaintiff must be able to prove or a defendant must be able to disprove for a breach of contract case in order to be awarded damages from the Court. For a clearer understanding, we will use an example fact pattern. Here, Bob is a deck builder that works as a contractor. Sally is in need of a deck. She signs a contract saying she will pay Bob $17,000 to build a deck of a predetermined size in one week. After Bob builds the deck, Sally decides she no longer wants the deck and decides not to pay. Let's look at what would happen if Bob and his business lawyer decided to sue.
An Enforceable Contract Exists
If Bob has a copy of the written contract with both of their signatures on it, and that contract was written in a way that didn't include any unlawful provisions, this should in most cases suffice for the enforceable contract clause. Even if Bob and Suzy did not have a written contract, Bob still may be able to pursue his case against Suzy.
Performance of The Contract
Did Bob do what he was required to do? Material purchases and before and after pictures will help provide evidence as to whether or not Bob did the job he was paid to do. If the pictures and other proof show that a deck was built within the parameters of the contract, Bob will be able to prove that he performed his part of the contract. If there are no pictures, or they show a defective and poorly built deck, Bob may have a problem showing that he performed his work and should be paid.
Breach of The Contract
If Bob shows he built the deck and Sally cannot provide evidence that she paid Bob, Bob can use the absence of evidence of payment as proof that Sally breached their contract. Here, Bob can demonstrate that he was not paid by letters and emails demanding payment and he can force Sally, during the lawsuit to produce all evidence of payment to Bob. Then, during trial, Bob can show that Sally has no evidence of payments to him and then Sally will be forced to try and prove otherwise.
If Bob is able to show all of the previous steps, he can then show how much he is still owed, which will prove that he was damaged. If Sally failed to pay Bob as part of a contract and did not have a valid excuse, then the damages will be clear and apparent, and Sally should then be found liable to Bob for the amount she did not pay Bob for his labor and materials.
This is a very simplistic example, but those are the essential steps of proving a breach of contract case. In the real world, however, breach of contracts related to businesses and business law can become complicated quite quickly, so always be aware of potential consequences of a breach when entering into any contract and always make sure you have a great contract law attorney nearby to help you on your breach of contract disputes.