There are instances where the parameters of a contract are egregious, or a party writes the contract so confusingly that it is difficult to understand the exact terms of the agreement. Confusing terms can make it hard to tell if you have broken the deal, for it can be a pure accident. The following are possible defenses for breach of contract.
What Does the Plaintiff Have to Prove in Breach of Contract Cases?
California courts layout the following framework that the plaintiff must prove to succeed in a breach of contract claim:
- There was a contract
- What parts of the contract the plaintiff carries out
- The defendant breached the contract
- The defendant’s breach led to damage to the plaintiff
In simplest terms, it is possible to sue for breach of contract if the other party does not hold up their end of the deal or violates the arrangement. So, successful defenses for breach of contract avoid and combat this framework.
Defenses for Breach of Contract:
There are many ways to defenses for breach of contract accusation, and below is a list of possible defenses. If accused of breaching a contract, the best thing you can do is to get a lawyer and talk to them about how best to proceed.
Outside of the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a deadline for one to file a suit or make a complaint. As per the California Code of Civil Procedure 337, the statute of limitations of breach of contract cases requires a party to file within four years. The limit begins once the non-breaching party discovers that the other party has broken the contract. For instance, if parties sign and agree upon a contract in 2020, but one does not realize that the other party violated the agreement until 2021. The statute of limitations to file suit would begin on the 2021 discovery date.
If the party you entered into a contract with files their suit outside the statute of limitations, then it is unlikely a judge will hear their case.
There Was No Breach of Contract
It may be the case that the defendant has not violated any of the agreement terms. To uphold a contract, it is essential to:
- Know what you agree to
- Make sure the contract is direct and is not ambiguous
- Ask questions if anything is confusing
- Know if the contract is realistically achievable for you
- Follow through with your agreement
- Keep any evidence you believe may be helpful if the other party were to file suit
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted
Using this defense means there are no grounds for claiming that one has breached the contract. This defense is helpful in the following scenarios:
- There was no breach
- Jurisdiction did not exist
- There are not enough facts to prove their claim
Failure to Mitigate
This defense is helpful if the plaintiff did not take the reasonable steps to prevent or diminish damages they claim to have endured. So while the defendant may be partially or primarily responsible, there may have been some steps the plaintiff neglected to take.
There is a Mistake or Error in the Contract
If someone files suit against another for breach of contract, a viable defense is to point out a mistake in the contract. The error should be essential to the agreement for this defense to be effective.
The Contract is Illegal
California Civil Code 1608 states that if any part of the consideration is unlawful, the entire contract is void. It is not possible to contract illegal acts. For example, a contract stating “person A must steal from every business on Hollywood Boulevard” is not enforceable. Because the law prohibits stealing, a contract cannot compel anyone to commit illegal acts. It is legal to breach a contract if it states that one must perform an unlawful act.
The Pretenses Upon Which You Entered Into the Contract Were Fraudulent
Sometimes, people enter into contracts based on false information. If this is the case, it may be an adequate defense for breaching a contract. California Civil Code 1572 states that fraud occurs when an individual intends to deceive another person into a contract. Instances may include:
- The plaintiff provided misleading information
- The contractor hid pertinent information
- The plaintiff made a promise without the intention of keeping it
- The plaintiff intended to deceive
Prevented from Performance
In some instances, an individual has the full intention and ability to fulfill the contract requirements when they first sign it. However, sometimes situations change, and people may become unable to perform what they agreed to do.
California Civil Code 1511 states that individuals are exempt from completing what they agreed to in the contract in the following circumstances:
- An act of the creditor (the plaintiff) or the law itself prevented or delayed one from upholding their agreement.
- When an out-of-control or outside force that one could not have anticipated prevents fulfillment.
- The plaintiff acted in a way that induced the defendant not to follow the contract.
Failure of Condition Precedent
California Civil Code section 1498 states that there can be a condition precedent for contracts. Condition precedent means that if the plaintiff fails to follow a specific part of the contract necessary to receive payment from the defendant, it is lawful to breach the agreement. For example, say you and a contractor sign a contract stating that the contractor will cut down a tree in your front yard and take it away. If the contractor does not do this yet sues you for not paying them, you can use this defense since they failed to perform an action necessary for them to get the payment.
There was No Damage to the Plaintiff
In some instances, the defendant has breached the contract and admits to it but still wants to defend themself to lessen the charges. Claiming no damages makes it possible to argue that, despite one breaching the contract, this caused no harm to the plaintiff, and therefore the payments should be lowered or dropped.
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one is filing a suit or is being sued for breach of contract, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.