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How to File a Complaint for a Breach of Contract in Florida
Many business owners, and even some private individuals, have to deal with costly and frustrating breaches of contract at some point in their lives. Contractual disputes are some of the most common lawsuits in Florida. Those affected by another party failing to uphold their side of a deal can suffer significant financial losses and other damages.
However, if you suffered damages due to another party breaching a contract, you could file a Florida complaint about a breach of contract and pursue compensation for your losses. Knowing your legal rights and options is vital for navigating a breach of contract case successfully. Let Morgan & Morgan help. Our breach of contract lawyers have assisted countless harmed individuals and businesses in recovering what they deserve. Contact us today for a free review of your case.
Contracts Are Legally Binding
Contracts between two or more parties are legally binding. Therefore, if one party fails to uphold its obligations, a breach of contract occurs. Breaches of contract can involve complex legal issues. A valid contract must exist, and a breach of terms must have occurred to have a claim.
What Is a Valid Contract?
According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), for a contract to exist, the following elements should be present:
- A valid offer
- Adequate consideration
- Legal execution
It is important to note that in Florida, verbal contracts are also legally binding. Therefore, you could have a case against another party even if you do not have a written document detailing the agreement. However, it can be much more challenging to prove a breach of contract case when no written contract exists.
Examples of Breach of Contract
Breaches of contract can arise in various situations with individuals, small businesses, and large corporations. Common examples of breach of contract cases include:
- Failure to carry out a service or deliver goods
- Delivering damaged goods
- Failing to complete a job
- Using inferior goods
- Violation of a contract term, such as a non-compete clause
- Failing to pay
Types of Contract Breaches in Florida
There can be several types of contract breaches, including:
Minor or Non-Material Contract Breach
A non-material breach generally describes a minor failure to perform. However, the parties performed according to the agreement’s terms, and the contract is still largely intact. A minor contract breach can include receiving a shipment late, for example.
Material Contract Breach
A material breach occurs when one party fails to carry out the main obligation detailed in the contract. Therefore, a material breach is a significant violation of the agreement, unlike a non-material breach. For example, if you hire a construction company to refurbish your kitchen, and the contractor fails to do any of the work, they are in material breach of the contract.
An anticipatory breach can occur when one party indicates that they are unable or unwilling to fulfill their future contractual obligations. The non-breaching party can potentially sue for breach of contract even though the breach of contract has technically not yet occurred.
An actual breach refers to one party’s failure to uphold its obligations as stated in the contract. The breach has already occurred, and the breaching party either performed their duty incompletely, improperly, or not at all.
If you experienced damages due to a business or individual breaching a contract, you could qualify for compensation. Morgan & Morgan’s motivated breach of contract lawyers could help you file a Florida complaint for breach of contract and recover the damages you deserve.
The Court Determines if Contract Breach Occurred
Determining whether the contract breach was material or minor can be tricky in some cases. Generally, in identifying the seriousness of a breach of contract, a court might consider the following questions:
- What, if any, benefit did the non-breaching party receive?
- Did the breaching party perform any contractual obligations?
- Was the breaching party affected by hardship impacting its ability to uphold the contract?
- Did the breaching party act negligently or willfully?
- Is it likely that the contract could still be performed?
- What is the likelihood that the damaged party will receive adequate compensation?
Once the court has decided whether a breach was minor or material, it will determine the appropriate remedies. Even if you believe that you have a clear-cut case, suing a non-performing party for breach of contract can be anything but straightforward. Having an experienced contract attorney by your side can be critical for arguing your case and recovering damages.
Damages for Breach of Contract in Florida
Generally, to have a valid breach-of-contract claim in Florida, you must show that you experienced damages, such as financial losses. Damages can include lost business revenue and income, reputational damage, and others. In addition, the claimant could also receive “expectation damages,” which is the benefit expected if the other party had not breached the contract. Specifically, damages can include:
Compensatory damages can cover any losses due to the contract breach, including expectation damages, income loss, and other damages caused directly due to the breach of contract.
Damages agreed upon by both parties and stated in a contract are called “liquidation damages.” Contracts including liquidation damages encourage compliance of all parties.
If the defendant gained from the breach of contract, the court might order them to pay restitution damages to the plaintiff. Restitution damages intend to restore the plaintiff to their position before the breach of contract and before sustaining damages.
When monetary damages may not be enough to compensate the victim, a court can order “specific performance.” Specific performance forces the defendant to follow through with their obligations under the terms and conditions of the contract.
Contract Rescission and Reformation
Rescission means that the old contract is canceled altogether, and a new one is drawn up as a replacement. Contract reformation is a modification of the old agreement to reflect the parties' true intent. For example, reformation can be a remedy when there was a mistake in the original contract.
Proving Breach of Contract
For you to be able to sue the breaching party in Florida, you must be able to prove that there was a valid contract and a material breach of the agreement. A minor violation generally does not qualify for a lawsuit. You will need to show:
- Proof that a legally binding contract exists
- Evidence that the contract was breached, including details of the breach
- Proof of your damages and losses
Morgan & Morgan’s experienced contract breach lawyers can help you with proving your breach of contract claim.
How to File a Complaint for Breach of Contract
Before filing a complaint for breach of contract in Florida, consider the time limits that could impact your case. According to Florida Statutes 95.11 (2), you generally have five years to file a breach of contract lawsuit. However, you only have four years to file a claim involving a verbal contract. In some cases, the timeline could be even shorter.
The Legal Process for Filing a Florida Complaint for Breach of Contract
First of all, you need to determine in which court to file your case. In many cases, especially if the defendant is located nearby, you could file a complaint in your local Florida civil court. The next steps in the legal process can involve:
- Filing a complaint
- Serving the defendant with the complaint
- Discovery (the process of exchanging information and evidence)
- Out of court settlement or trial
At any stage before a trial, civil cases, such as breach of contract lawsuits, can be settled with an out-of-court agreement between the parties. In fact, most civil lawsuits never make it to a trial. However, in highly contested cases, or those with considerable damages, a trial might be inevitable.
How Morgan & Morgan Can Help
Handling a breach of contract claim can be tricky on your own. Before filing your case, you need to know the full facts, including every detail of the contractual agreement and any limitations that could affect your chances of winning. Breaches of contract can be challenging to litigate. You could be up against a powerful business with a team of lawyers vigorously fighting your claim. Consider hiring a seasoned contract attorney from Morgan & Morgan who can review your contract and determine all your legal options.
Our business attorneys have recovered significant settlements for those harmed in contract disputes in Florida. Moreover, our contract attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. We only get paid when you win your breach of contract case and recover compensation.
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How Should I Handle a Breach of Contract?
We understand that it can be very upsetting when another party fails to uphold its obligations to you, especially if you kept your end of the deal in good faith. Ultimately, it is your decision how to handle a contract dispute. If the damages you incurred are minor, and you can work out a solution with the breaching party, filing a lawsuit may not be necessary. However, coming to an agreement may not always be possible.
If you suffered high damages and the breaching party is dragging its heels and unwilling to cooperate, consider contacting an attorney to talk about the situation. Our contract and business attorneys can then determine your next steps. They could help you negotiate a fair out-of-court settlement with the breaching party or file a lawsuit to pursue damages.
What Is the Difference Between an Actual Breach and an Anticipatory Breach?
Breaches of contract can be either “actual” or “anticipatory.” An actual contract breach has already happened, while an anticipatory occurs when one party states in advance that they intend to breach the contract. In the eyes of the law, both breaches can qualify for a breach of contract lawsuit.
How Do I Know Whether My Contract Is Legally Valid?
Proving an oral contract can be tricky. However, even if only a verbal agreement exists, there is most likely supporting documentation, such as emails, letters, text messages, or bills and quotes. Proof of payment for services rendered or goods delivered can also be great evidence for the existence of an oral contract. Another good way to prove the validity of a verbal contract is with witnesses who were present while an agreement was made between the parties.
However, if you have a written agreement that was correctly executed and is signed by at least two parties, you most likely have a legally binding and valid contract. Before deciding on any legal action, it is essential to discuss your verbal or written contract with an attorney.
How Long Does a Breach of Contract Claim Take?
No two breach of contract cases are the same. In some instances, the parties can come to a quick out-of-court settlement in just a few weeks. However, if the case progresses through the legal system, it could take many months or even years. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement with mediation or arbitration, there could be a trial. When any type of civil lawsuit goes to trial, it could take two years and even longer to resolve.
Contact Morgan & Morgan for Help
Filing a Florida complaint for breach of contract on your own can be challenging and overwhelming. Let Morgan & Morgan fight for what you deserve. Our breach of contract attorneys have handled a variety of cases, including but not limited to:
- Breach of employment contracts and professional services
- Breaches of commercial leases and real estate contracts
- Contractual breaches involving individuals and small business
- Breach of contract lawsuits on behalf of well-known entertainers and athletes
We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of those harmed in contractual disputes and could help you too. If you think you have a breach of contract claim in Florida and want to learn about your legal rights and options, our tenacious lawyers are here for you. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine whether you qualify for compensation.