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Breach of contract: Questions judges ask

When a plaintiff alleges that a breach of contract has occurred, it's vital to correctly interpret the contract as well as the circumstances in which it was allegedly breached. In making such a determination, there are a variety of questions that judges need to ask.

Essentially, a breach of contract is the failure of one of the parties to fulfill its promises codified by the contract. For example, maybe a supplier of cleaning materials was on contract to deliver cleaning supplies to a janitorial company at a certain time but failed to do so. That failure may have resulted in the loss of business, because the janitorial company was unable to provide its services.

In any contract dispute, failure to adhere to the contract's terms must have been made without any legal excuse. Here are the most important questions a judge will ask in determining this has occurred:

  • Did a lawful contract exist?
  • What did the contract require of the parties?
  • Did the parties modify the contract at any time?
  • Did the breach that was claimed actually happen?
  • Could the breach be considered material to the contract?
  • Can the breaching party offer a valid defense to why the contract is not enforceable?
  • What damages did the breach cause?

If you believe that a contract you entered was breached by another party, or if another party is accusing you of breaching a contract, you may also want to answer the above questions on your own.

Since the answers to these questions will be the determining factors that a judge uses to decide a case, these questions can be a useful tool for understanding where you stand in your contract dispute. This perspective will also help you negotiate a fair and proper settlement of the matter.

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