There are three ways a contract can be breached, warranting a civil lawsuit in Wisconsin. These are:
- Failing to perform a task specified in the contract.
- Making it impossible for the other party to perform a task stipulated in the contract.
- Communicating an intent to not perform a task in the contract.
While these three criteria may seem clear cut, proving that one or more of them has been met is not always so easy.
Establishing the Claim
To claim a breach of contract, the burden falls on the plaintiff (the person who commences the lawsuit), who must prove that:
- An enforceable contract exists,
- The defendant caused a material or fundamental breach, and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the breach.
Demonstrating the Existence of a Contract
To show that a breach of contract has occurred in Wisconsin, a valid contract must have been in place. The contract can be written or oral, as both can be legally enforced. What matters is the ability to prove the contract included the following three components:
- Offer – There had to be a discussion and agreement to provide goods or services in return for monetary payment, or material goods, or something else of value. This must show the intention of both parties to enter into the contract.
- Acceptance – There must have been an agreement regarding the terms of the contract. This can be easier to prove if a written agreement was made where the terms of the contract are documented.
- Consideration – All parties to a contract must have something to gain from the agreement; an agreement where only one party benefits is considered a gift by the courts.
In addition, the parties must enter into an agreement before the exchange of goods, money, or services takes place.
Breach of a Contract’s Terms
A breach of contract may occur if any of the terms of a contract are broken. However, from a court’s point of view, a breach of contract must result in a loss. The breach must (1) reduce the value of the contract, making it a “material breach;” or (2) alter the outcome of the agreement to such an extent that one party would have the right to terminate the contract, which is considered a “fundamental breach.”
A breach of contract claim must show a party suffered damages or losses because of the breach. This loss can include money, time, opportunity, or an array of other losses. The monetary damages that individuals can recover in such cases is usually the amount that would be required to “make them whole,” i.e., return them to the position they were in prior to entering the agreement. These damages can be money—the actual value of the goods or the services that were to be performed—or the requirement for a specific action to be taken.
While relatively rare, if a party can prove the breach was done intentionally with the intent to mislead or defraud, punitive damages may be awarded in the form of additional money. Meanwhile, nearly all courts will order the individual(s) found in breach of the contract to pay all the legal fees and related expenses on both sides.
Contact Our Milwaukee Civil Litigation Attorneys
When individuals or organizations enter into a contract, whether verbal or written, all parties involved are expected to uphold their end of the agreement. When such a contract is broken, there can be monetary losses and a host of other damages for which compensation is warranted. If you need to address contract-related issues, contact our Milwaukee, WI breach of contract lawyers today at 414-271-1440.