Affirmative defenses to breach of contract California are important. When a legal action, like a complaint, cross-complaint, or counter-complaint, is brought against you, you have the right to raise an affirmative defense. Such a defense would concede but mitigate the other party's claims and prevent them from taking further action against the defendant.

For example, the defendant might be able to raise a defense under the merger doctrine, which applies when one party claims there was a side deal that wasn't included in the contract. Or if the plaintiff "ratified," or permitted, the acts of the defendant, the plaintiff cannot file a complaint. And of course, if the contract was breached by the plaintiff, he cannot recover damages.

If the defendant doesn't raise an affirmative defense in a timely manner, the court could say he “waived” these rights. You must raise all possible defenses at the time you file your answer to the complaint, which occurs at the beginning of the case. You'll need to determine how detailed you want to be and how detailed the law requires you to be. Explain why you are bringing each affirmative defense in as much detail as you can. However, if you don't have enough information but believe an affirmative defense applies, you still need to raise it in your answer so the other side can't say you waived your rights.

In most cases, the respondent-defendant has the burden to prove any claimed affirmative defenses. Some affirmative defenses are more like properly styled additional defenses, and the plaintiff-claimant has to prove that it doesn't apply. For example, if a defendant claims they were not properly served with the complaint, the plaintiff must prove that such notice was provided.

In order to raise all possible defenses in your answer, you need to be familiar with what types of potential defenses are available.

10 Possible Affirmative Defenses

You won't ever see a case where all affirmative defenses are applicable. Most affirmative defenses are specific to the circumstances of a particular cause of action. There are hundreds of affirmative defenses, but here are 10 of the most common ones:

  • Statute of Limitations: The discovery doctrine can affect the way the statute of limitations is interpreted. In certain cases, the court may determine the clock didn't start running until the plaintiff learned there were grounds for a lawsuit. In others, the clock starts ticking when the plaintiff should have discovered the injury, regardless of when the injury was actually discovered. This defense is raised when the defendant essentially states that the events took place so long ago that they cannot be properly litigated.
  • Failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted: This means even if all the facts of the case are accurate, the plaintiff has no legal grounds for recovery.
  • Laches: The defendant claims there was an unreasonable delay in filing a lawsuit, even if the statute of limitations has not yet expired.
  • Statutory defense: Sometimes, the defendant can cite statutes or case law to build his defense. For example, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights can be cited to defend against a foreclosure action if the defendant is in compliance with National Mortgage Settlement.
  • Privilege: The defendant asserts that he had the privilege to engage in the activity that allegedly caused the damage or injuries in question.
  • Unclean hands: This defense states that the plaintiff cannot seek damages because he has dirty hands," meaning he did something unlawful as well. As a result, the plaintiff should not entitled to any remedies.
  • Accord and satisfaction: The defendant states there is no breach of contract because the parties had already reached an agreement that satisfied the obligation or debt.
  • Duress: The defendant states force was exerted against him, leaving him without any reasonable options.
  • Assumption of risk: The plaintiff is barred from recovery because they knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of getting injured.
  • Statute of Frauds: This statute states that certain documents are only enforceable if they are in writing. For example, real estate contracts must be in writing in order to be enforced.

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