Where can I get more advice on contractual disputes?
Contact Richardson Lissack for expert guidance on all issues relating to contractual disputes.
What are contractual disputes?
Breaches of contract can occur in a variety of circumstances where one party fails to perform their duty.
Contracts can either be in writing or arise orally where the necessary elements of a contract are present (offer, acceptance, consideration and intention).
Expert legal advice can assist in identifying the terms of the contract, what breaches have occurred and what claims may be available to a party (whether that is a claim for money or other relief, such as an order for performance of the contract terms).
How can a contractual breach arise?
A contractual breach can arise when one party has either not performed their duty, or not performed it to the standard indicated in the contract or within the stipulated timeframe. For example, a housebuilding company may be in breach of contract if some new homes are not of the required quality, or if the project is not completed on time.
What types of contractual breach are there?
There are two main types of contractual breach:
1. Material breach: This occurs when one of the parties fails to perform their duty to the extent that the contract is irreparable. The aggrieved party can now sue for damages.
2. Minor breach or immaterial breach: This occurs when there has been a less fundamental breach to the contract. Both parties still have an obligation to fulfil the contract but the aggrieved party is again able to sue for damages.
Are there alternatives to litigation over contractual breaches?
Many contractual disputes are resolved without the need for legal action. There are non-binding and binding options available.
- Early neutral evaluation (where a neutral third party assists the two interested parties in evaluating the likely outcome of legal action)
- Expert Determination (ED)
- Adjudication (specific to construction contracts)
What is the legal process for contractual disputes?
If it is not possible to resolve a dispute through the options above, an aggrieved party can take legal action against the party that has breached the contract.
This could result in:
- Compensation for loss or damage
- A specific performance court order
- Repudiation (where one party formally states that it is unable or unwilling to fulfil the contract. The other party then has the option of terminating the contract or proceeding with litigation)
What are the best ways to avoid a contractual dispute?
Prevention is always better than the cure and it is worth taking steps when drawing up a contract to avoid the likelihood of problems arising. In particular it is vital that the contract is specific about:
- The duties that are to be performed by both parties
- The timeframe in which they are to be completed
- How it will be determined if the duties have been performed in a satisfactory way