Proving a breach of contract requires examining the contract and making sure it's enforceable, and then providing evidence that one party did not fulfill their end of the bargain.

A breach of contract occurs when one or both parties have failed to do what they agreed to do in a contract. This type of failure is the driving force behind many lawsuits. A few typical examples include a plumber's failure to fix a restroom, a famous person's failure to appear at an event, or a tenant's failure to make rent payments.

How to Determine Whether a Contract Has Been Breached

To determine whether a contract has been breached, you must first review the required material terms of the agreement. Elements of a contract may be considered material if they comprise the very purpose of making the agreement, meaning that failure to perform them defeats that purpose.

Material elements may include important items such as the time frame of completion, an item to be sold, a technique or particular way of completing a service, or an amount of money to be paid. If, without meeting these terms, the agreement would be meaningless, they constitute material elements. As such, if these requirements are not met, then the contract has been breached.

As an example, if you entered into a contract with a clown to perform at your child's birthday party, and the agreement specifies that the birthday party is from noon until 2 p.m., it would likely be considered a material breach if the clown showed up at noon and then said she needed to leave by 12:30 p.m. However, a court might not consider it to be a material breach if the clown arrived at 12:15 p.m. due to an accident on the highway, and stayed until 2 p.m.

Similarly, if you entered into an agreement to purchase a new truck, and it arrived with slightly mismatching tinted windows, a court would not likely conclude that a material breach of contract had occurred. Although the vehicle dealer might need to replace the glass if a particular tint was included in the contract, you would not be able to void the entire agreement.

You may also consider the substantial performance of either party. This also might prevent a court from finding a valid material breach. If the party has completed the majority of what was required under the contract, it may be considered substantial enough to uphold the contract. However, such conclusions might require some remedy to make up for whatever part of the agreement is left unfinished.

As an example, if Diego agrees to deep clean Maria's kitchen for $100, and then thoroughly cleans all floors, appliances, counters, windows, fridge, and stove, yet does not dust the blades on the ceiling fan, a court would probably determine that the contract was substantially completed. It's possible that a small amount may be deducted from Diego's pay in order to pay someone else to clean the fan blades.

Or, if a contractor agrees to install a floor using a particular type of material, but uses a different material instead, the court will need to determine whether the job was substantially performed. If both materials are of equal color, style, and quality, it's likely that no valid breach has occurred.

How to Prove a Prove Breach of Contract

In order to prove a breach of contract, the contract must first be proven to be enforceable. This requires the following four elements:

  1. Offer: Two or more parties must have the intention to enter a legally binding contract. Not all discussions pertaining to future business agreements are considered offers.
  2. Consideration: Each party agrees to give and receive something of value. A one-way promise is generally not considered a valid contract. Neither are agreements based on already completed actions.
  3. Acceptance: This occurs when all parties have agreed to the terms of the contract.
  4. Mutuality: After discussion, all parties understand and agree to the terms.

After it has been established that an enforceable contract was in place, you must prove that you satisfied your requirements under the contract terms.

You must also prove that the other party did not perform their obligations under the contract terms. In other words, you must prove that the defendant caused a breach of contract.

Next, you must prove how that particular breach resulted in specific damages. "Damages" is a term that includes any lost money, lost working time, or any other quantifiable expense that occurred as a result of the breach of contract. You must be able to prove that as a result of the breach of contract, you will lose money, a business opportunity, or experience some other clearly identifiable harm.

If you need help proving a breach of contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.