When we think of contracts, we often envision two businesses — or business partners — forging an agreement, usually in writing. A contract can also be an oral agreement or even one implied by their repeated conduct and dealings together.
Individuals can also engage in contracts. A civil contract is one between persons rather than businesses. Like a marriage vow, a civil contract bestows certain rights and obligations on the parties involved. When things go sour and one party fails to live up to their side of the bargain, a breach of contract can be said to exist. At the very least, there is a dispute to be resolved.
If you find yourself in a contractual disagreement with one or both parties failing to live up to their obligations, you may need the help of experienced contract dispute attorneys to help you resolve matters. At McCarter | East PLLC, our attorneys have long been helping individuals in Murfreesboro or Berry Hill, Tennessee, work toward the best possible resolution of their civil disputes.
Common Contract Disputes
Many of the most common contract disputes involve real estate and property issues, such as home sales or property exchanges and landlord-tenant disputes. Loans also often involve contractual arrangements between individuals, as can service arrangements such as one with the landscape or gardening person who takes care of your property.
A property insurance contract can result in the property owner not being satisfied with the result of a claim and alleging a breach of contract. Likewise, a maintenance contract can end up being disputed if one party fails to provide the agreed-upon repair and upkeep services.
Elements of a Contract
As mentioned, a contract does not have to be in writing, though written contracts often can — if crafted correctly — head off disputes before they happen, or provide mechanisms for internal dispute resolution.
Some contracts may be of the oral or implied variety. Oral means a shaking of the hands and agreeing on what each party will provide, usually cash by one party and service or goods by the other. An implied contract can be said to exist when two parties have been agreeing and conforming to a contract-like arrangement long enough that it becomes binding.
Written and oral contracts are called “express contracts,” as opposed to an implied contract, which has not necessarily been expressly conveyed.
What is a Breach of Contract?
Disputes between the two sides in a contract don’t need to rise to the level of a breach. Often, there is simply a disagreement over terms of the agreement that can be ironed out through a discussion of the issue, or through negotiation with outside help if the two parties can’t resolve matters themselves.
A breach of contract requires four elements:
The existence of an express or implied contract
The plaintiff — who is filing for breach against the other party — has lived up to their side of the agreement, or has a legitimate excuse for not having done so
The defendant failed to fulfill their responsibilities as specified
The plaintiff suffered damages because of the breach
For instance, if one party fails to deliver the agreed-upon goods or services when required, or the other party fails to pay for those goods or services, a breach can be said to have occurred.
Resolution of breaches usually involves one of three remedies: The defendant ends up paying for damages, the plaintiff gets a court to order the defendant to carry out the specified obligation, or the non-breaching party cancels the contract and returns to the way matters worked previously (called cancellation and restitution).
Why Attorneys are Needed
The first step when a dispute or breach arises is to talk it out and attempt to negotiate a solution or settlement. Depending on the complexity of the situation, however, this is not always possible without the assistance of attorneys experienced in contract matters. Going it alone is usually not the best option.
Even if the matter is minor enough that you can seek restitution in small claims court, you still never know how the judge may rule. Tennessee allows you to have your attorney present, and their knowledge and experience might help tip the scale in your favor.
If the issue warrants a civil lawsuit above and beyond small claims court, you’re certainly going to need an attorney to guide you and devise the optimal strategy.