A breach of contract case involves any agreement between individuals or entities in which one or more parties agree to do something in exchange for something in return. Agreements can be oral (verbal), written, or even implied from the specific circumstances at hand. When one party fails to hold up his or her end of the bargain in accordance with the agreed-upon terms, a legal dispute often arises.
Elements of a Breach of Contract
In order for a party to successfully win a breach of contract case, he or she needs to prove that:
There was a valid contract in place;
The contract was breached;
The defendant (the breaching party) is the proper party to sue; and
The plaintiff (the person bringing the case to court) suffered a monetary loss.
Oral contracts, or those that are not written on paper, are actually enforceable, despite popular belief. While an oral contract is likely not in your best interests, as long as there is enough evidence present that a contract existed, a court will enforce its terms. The exception to this rule is the statute of frauds. The purpose of this law, which is centuries old, is to prevent deceitful behavior when contracts have long durations or there are high stakes involved. Most states, including Nevada, require the following circumstances to have a written contract:
Transfers of property at the owner’s death;
Real estate sales;
Agreements to pay another’s debts;
Real estate leases that last longer than one year;
Contracts that take longer than one year to complete;
Contracts that last beyond one of the party’s lifetime; and
Contracts involving a certain amount of money.
Generally, if an oral contract addresses any of these categories above, a court will not enforce its terms with few exceptions. The exceptions to the statute of frauds includes if one party partially completed the terms of the contract or if the person seeking enforcement (the plaintiff) relied on the other party’s promise to comply and suffered harm as a result of this reliance. The party seeking enforcement bears the burden of proving reliance.
There are several defenses to a breach of contract claim. In addition to initially disputing the other side’s facts of the case, you may also claim that even if there was a breach, it was so minor that it is immaterial to the agreement. Some common affirmative defenses include:
The plaintiff acted unethically, unlawfully, or in bad faith (this may include misrepresentation of a known material fact);
The plaintiff waited too long to pursue the claim, prejudicing your ability to defend yourself (known as laches);
The terms of the agreement are excessively unfair or unconscionable;
The plaintiff excused itself or waived its ability to claim a breach due to its past behavior (known as equitable estoppel);
The parties made a mutual mistake as to an existing material fact of the contract;
It has become impossible to perform the terms of the contract due to unforeseen circumstances;
Before you or someone you know enters into a contract, you should always have a knowledgeable Nevada attorney review the terms. The skilled lawyers at Parry & Pfau can explain your options and guide you every step of the way.