If someone breaches a contract with you or your company, you deserve justice.
Fortunately, there are a number of potential remedies for breach of contract. These can range from enforcing the terms of the contract to monetary compensation.
If you or your business is facing a contract dispute, the knowledgeable commercial litigation attorneys at the Miller Law Firm can help. We can review your contract and help you pursue a remedy for breach of contract that will best compensate you for the breach.
Types of Remedies for Breach of Contract
There are several common remedies for breach of contracts. The appropriate remedy depends on the terms of the contract, the nature of the breach, and the specific circumstances of the case.
1. Compensatory Damages
An award of compensatory damages is the most common of the legal remedies for breach of contract.
The calculation of compensatory damages is based on the actual losses you have sustained as a result of the breach of contract. They typically fall into two categories: expectation damages and consequential damages.
Expectation damages—also referred to as general damages—are those that directly result from the breach of contract.
For example, imagine a company that provides bus tours enters into a contract to buy a bus for $100,000. However, the seller backs out of the contract and refuses to sell the bus. The bus company finds another seller with a similar bus, but they won’t take less than $110,000. In that case, the expectation damages would be $10,000—the difference between the contract price and the amount the company had to pay another seller for the same product.
Consequential damages are those that flow as a natural consequence of the breach.
Consequential damages often comprises profits that a company lost as a result of the breach.
In the case of the bus example, imagine it took an extra week to secure the new bus. As a result, the tour company had to turn away 1,000 customers that would have each paid $50 for a bus tour. In that case, the company could likely recover consequential damages for the $50,000 they lost in ticket sales.
Often the breaching party will attempt to avoid paying consequential damages by claiming that they are too speculative or that they are not foreseeable. Also, sometimes parties to a contract may limit or preclude either party from recovering consequential damages. An experienced attorney can help you combat these arguments and maximize your damages award.
2. Specific Performance
Specific performance is a type of remedy for breach of contract in which a court orders the breaching party to perform their end of the bargain.
Monetary damages are typically favored over specific performance as a remedy for breach of contract. However, specific performance may be available when monetary damages won’t adequately compensate you. For example, they may apply to a contract for something that is unique and can’t be easily replaced.
In the bus example above, monetary damages would be sufficient to compensate the tour company for its loss. But imagine that the new bus had been used previously by a famous singer. The tour company wanted to use the bus for tours of the singer’s home town. In that case, the tour company could argue for specific performance rather than monetary damages because no other bus would be comparable to the one it contracted to buy.
Injunctions serve a similar purpose as specific performance. The difference is that with specific performance, the court orders a party to do something. With an injunction, the court often orders a party not to do something.
An injunction may be permanent or temporary. Temporary injunctions are often ordered while litigation is pending to prevent potential damage. For example, in a lawsuit that concerns a breach of a noncompete contract, a court might order the defendant to cease the allegedly competitive activity until the lawsuit is resolved. A permanent injunction, as the name suggests, is permanent. A judge may issue a permanent injunction as part of their final ruling in a lawsuit.
Rescission allows a nonbreaching party to cancel the contract as a remedy for a breach. Rather than seeking monetary damages, the nonbreaching party can simply refuse to complete their end of the bargain. Rescission puts the parties back in the position they would have been in had they never entered into the contract.
However, to justify rescission, the breach must be material. That means that it has to go to the heart of the contractual agreement.
For example, imagine that you contract to provide catering services for an event. The contract requires the other party to pay half the contract price by a certain date, but they never pay.
Since payment goes to the heart of the contract, you would be justified in rescinding the contract and refusing to provide the catering services.
5. Liquidated Damages
Liquidated damages are a specific amount the parties agree to in the contract as compensation for a breach.
Contracts often use liquidated damages provisions where it might be difficult to calculate the correct amount of compensatory damages.
Real estate purchase agreements and construction contracts commonly rely on liquidated damages. They might be a specific sum, such as the amount of the earnest money on a purchase contract. Or they could depend on a formula, such as a certain amount of money for each day a deadline is not met. Partnership agreements are also likely to include liquidated damages provisions.
Although courts typically uphold liquidated damages clauses, they may disregard them if the amount of liquidated damages is drastically smaller or greater than the value of the actual harm the plaintiff has suffered.
6. Nominal Damages
A court may award nominal damages as a legal remedy for breach of contract when the plaintiff cannot support their claim for compensatory damages. With nominal damages, the court recognizes that a breach of contract occurred, but no harm can be calculated.
While receiving nominal damages may feel like a pyrrhic victory, the plaintiff does get the benefit of the ruling in their favor. This may be simply a moral victory, or it may pave the way for the plaintiff to pursue another type of legal action. If the contract has an attorney fee provision, an award of nominal damages may also enable the plaintiff to seek their attorney fees from the defendant.
The Miller Law Firm: Your Contract Attorneys
To learn more about potential remedies for breach of contract in your case, contact Miller Law. For more than two decades, we have served the business community in Michigan, and we have recovered over $3 billion on behalf of our clients. We can help you determine what types of remedies for breach of contract you might be entitled to collect. Contact us online now or give us a call to discuss your options.