Whether a contract is something that warrants your attention several times a week or once a month, Florida business owners know agreements are a necessary part of operations. Unfortunately, contract disputes are also a top reason companies wind up in court. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that there are around 27,000 cases filed in state courts every year alleging breach of contract and related claims, representing about 3 percent of all civil lawsuits. An additional figure is notable for those considering litigation: Plaintiffs in breach of contract cases are 66 percent likely to prevail, which means 34 percent of defendants succeeded in fighting the claims.
If your dispute appears headed for the courtroom, it is wise to know what to expect on either side. Defenses could support your position, so the relevant concepts and strategies could also be used against you. A Clearwater, FL contracts lawyer can explain the details about potential defenses, such as:
The basics of a contract must be present for it to be enforceable, so there must be:
- An offer by one party;
- Acceptance of the offer by the other; and
- The exchange of consideration by both parties.
The legal concept of consideration is something of value given by each party to secure the performance by the other. In Florida business law, consideration is typically money given in exchange for goods or services. However, the value could also come from one party refraining in some act it is legally entitled to do.
So-called “parol” evidence involves the conversations and discussions that surround negotiation of a written agreement, but which never made it into the final contract. The parol evidence rule prohibits this information from being introduced in court as evidence of the agreement. The court will only look at the written contract as encompassing the full extent of the parties’ rights and obligations. The parol evidence rule may act as a defense in some cases, but it could also be a factor with enforceability.
Misconduct in Formation of a Contract
Even when the required elements to create an agreement are present, there may be defenses based upon the circumstances surrounding its formation. A contract is not enforceable if the subject matter is illegal or where it is so grossly unfair as to be unconscionable. Additional defenses in this category include coercion, duress, and fraud, such as where one party was induced into contracting through false statements.
Statute of Frauds
Many of the contracts you use regularly are based upon an oral agreement, but there are some that must be in writing to be enforceable. Florida’s Statute of Frauds requires a signed document when the agreement involves:
- $500 or more in goods;
- Promises to pay the debt of another; and
- Contracts that cannot be performed within one year.
Discuss Defenses and Strategy with a Pinellas County Business Litigation Attorney
This overview helps frame the contract issues for court, but these concepts can also guide you in assessing mediation and other nonlitigation options. For more information on defenses in Florida breach of contract cases, please contact Clearwater Business Law at (727) 785-5100. We can set up a consultation with a business lawyer who can provide personalized details based upon your situation.