As a general rule, a contract is an agreement or a set of promises exchanged between two parties, which the law will enforce and recognize as valid. Not all promises rise to the level of a valid and enforceable contract.
When one of the parties fails to perform his or her end of the bargain, this is called a breach of contract. A breach can arise in numerous and various ways. A breach might consist of failing to perform an act required to be performed under the contract, for example, failing to make a car payment called for by a loan agreement. It might also consist of rendering deficient or defective service called for by contract, for example, a painter who paints a house the wrong color.
When a person has been victimized by a breach of contract, he or she has a legal claim or cause of action for breach of contract. Generally, a victim must prove the following elements to prevail in such a claim:
the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the parties;
a breach of the contract; and
damages resulting from the breach.
A defendant who has been sued for breach of contract may have a variety of available defenses. The defendant may dispute that one or more of the above three elements have been properly satisfied. Even if the above elements have been satisfied, moreover, the defendant may be able to argue that he or she has a legal excuse for not performing under the contract. The law recognizes many such excuses to performance.
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