One of the most common business disputes is a breach of contract dispute. Breach of contract means a party, who formerly assured to do so, has failed to live up to their side of the deal. This could be a case in a variety of situations. Here, I will discuss typical defences if you have been sued for a breach of contract in Florida.
How a breach of contract lawsuit is proved
Below are the elements the person or business entity who filed against you must prove in court in order to succeed on a breach of contract dispute.
- The party must prove the existence of an enforceable contract.
- After that, the party must prove that the promise was broken.
- And lastly, the party must prove that it has sustained damages, such as financial losses, due breach of contract.
In order to be successful, the plaintiff must prove all three elements mentioned above. The defending person or business entity will be successful by proving one or more of the elements above wrong.
Typical defenses against a breach of contract lawsuit
Below are a few examples of defenses to breaches of contract, not all defenses.
Impossibility of Performance
The impossibility of performance means that the defending party is unable to perform according to the provisions of the contract due to an unforeseen incident. This incident can be taken to mean several things, such as an act of God, property destruction, incapacity or death, etc. This means that the party was unable to abide by the terms of the contract as the incident made it impossible for the party to do so. Acts of God may include hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., which halted the normal working of the defendant.
Fraud in the Inducement
Fraud in the inducement means that the party was induced or lured into signing the contract through fraud and the provisions of the contract are not in the best interest of the defending party. This is a strong defense as the person or entity forfeits its consensual partnership in the contract. It states that it had no intention of signing the contract but was tricked into doing so, and the provisions damaged the defending party.
Statute of Limitations
The passing of the Statute of Limitations means that the time limit for filing a lawsuit for a breach of contract has expired. Consequently, if the time has expired, the pursuing party cannot file a lawsuit as the time for such actions has expired and thus, the claim will be barred. The time limit for the statute of limitations in Florida is five years for written contracts, 4 years for oral contracts and one year for specific performance of a contract requiring a party to perform a specific action per an existing contract.
The Illegality of the Contract
This means that if the contract in violates state or federal law, then it is automatically barred. A contract that violates provisions of the law cannot be enforced in court.
Duress and Undue Influence
Under Florida law, duress is a condition of the mind produced by an improper external pressure or influence that destroys the free agency of a party and causes him to do an act or make a contract not of his own volition. If someone is forced to enter into a contract by force or threat, there will be no contract as the force or threat deprives that person or entity of the ability to choose.
Unilateral or Mutual Mistake
This is a complicated defense. Mistakes can be divided into unilateral or mutual. Unilateral means a single party did not fully understand or was mistaken about the terms and conditions of the contract, while mutual means that both of the parties were mistaken about the terms and conditions of the contract.
The unclean hands doctrine is an equitable defense to a breach of contract claim. Under this defense, the person or entity being accused of a breach of contract argues that the other party is not entitled to a remedy under Florida. This is because that party also committed a breach of contract. Under the unclean hands defense, neither party is liable to the other because both parties have unclean hands and committed wrongdoings.
The trial attorneys at Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, a Veteran-owned law firm, have successfully represented Florida residents and businesses in breach of contract litigation cases in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin County and St. Lucie counties in Florida. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. For more information about our commercial litigation practice call 877-322-5291.