Consult a Contract Dispute & Commercial Litigation Lawyer
Contracts are critical to most businesses, from operating agreements to asset purchase agreements to employment contracts. Individuals also rely on contracts every day, from leases to sales contracts. When a contract dispute arises, it can severely affect the operation of your company or your life. Contract disputes can rapidly become complicated. Lucy H. Deakins is a contract dispute and commercial litigation lawyer at Dunsing & Deakins, LLC in Denver, CO. She has the skill, experience, and resources to help you resolve matter efficiently, whether through a negotiated settlement or through litigation.
What is a Contract?
Simply put, a contract is a legally enforceable agreement. Each party to a contract promises to do something in exchange for the other party’s promise. These exchanged promises are called “consideration”.
Many contracts do not have to be in writing to be enforceable, and often amendments to contracts do not have to be in writing to be enforceable – even if a written contract says amendments must be in writing. Under Colorado’s Statute of Frauds, however, certain types of agreements must be in writing to be enforceable, such as contracts for the sale of real estate (land) or for goods over a certain value.
Even if an agreement must be in writing, there are certain defenses that may make it enforceable without a writing, such as the doctrine of equitable estoppel or partial performance. Rarely, agreements are not enforceable because they are against public policy.
What Kinds of Disputes Can Arise?
Frequently, contract disputes center around a disagreement about what a contract term means. That can occur when a term is ambiguous (could reasonably have more than one meaning) or if the contract term is incomplete.
Contract disputes can also arise when one party does not believe the contract was ever entered at all. This happens when there are extended negotiations over a contract and the beginning date for performance is not sufficiently clear to both parties. It can also occur when someone interferes with the contract formation, such as in intentional interference with contract.
What Can I Do?
If someone has failed to do what they promised in a contract, there are two general types of remedies available: damages and performance.
“Damages” (sometimes called “money damages”) means monetary compensation for loss caused by the breach. This can include:
- Compensatory damages – reimbursement for costs to compensate for your loss due to the breach.
- Consequential and Incidental Damages – for “foreseeable” losses caused by the breach.
- Attorney fees and costs – these are generally only recoverable if they are expressly provided for in the contract.
- Liquidated damages – these are damages that are expressly provided for in a contract if actual damages would be too difficult to calculate.
- Punitive damages are usually not available in breach of contract cases, but may be available in some tort cases involving contracts, such as intentional interference with contract.
- Quantum meruit – if the contract did not allow for proper compensation of work that has been performed and should, in fairness, be compensated, the court can order payment be made.
Sometimes, the law provides that money damages are not sufficient to remedy the problem caused by a breach. In that case, you can seek other remedies:
- “Specific performance” of the contract – a court order requiring the other party to perform their promises in the contract. This is most commonly seen in real estate transactions and is infrequent elsewhere.
- Rescission – returning the parties to where they were before the contract was entered. The contract is cancelled, the parties do not have to perform their promises, and any money or property exchanged under the contract is returned.
- Reformation – changing the terms of the contract to reflect what the parties actually intended or actually did.
Some of these remedies for breach of contract may be limited by the contract. In addition, the type and amount of monetary damages available will also depend on the controlling law, the conduct of the breaching party, and the type and amount of damage suffered by the non-breaching party.
Should I Take My Dispute to Court?
Every situation is different, and different considerations will be important to you in determining whether you should settle or go to trial. It is important to discuss your legal options and your individual considerations with a contract dispute and commercial litigation attorney before deciding how to pursue your case.
If you believe there has been a breach of contract and that you are entitled to compensation, Lucy H. Deakins can provide you with the sound legal counsel you need.
Enforcing a contract with a lawsuit can be expensive. Before you make a final decision on which remedy you want to pursue and how you intend to obtain it, you should consider the cost-effectiveness of full litigation. Instead of jumping into a lawsuit, it may make more sense for the parties to agree on a form of alternative dispute resolution such as direct negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. These avenues for obtaining a remedy may be more cost effective than simply filing a lawsuit and letting the court settle the dispute. Many Colorado counties offer mediation and arbitration services for a nominal fee and private mediation services are available everywhere, generally for a reasonable fee.
If the breach of contract dispute involves a significant amount of damages, a wise option would be to retain a contract disputes attorney to help you propose settlement terms and to review any proposed settlements in advance. They can also help you with litigation proceedings and trial, if that is necessary. Even if you do not use an attorney to file a lawsuit, you may want to consult with an attorney to help you draft and finalize settlement documents.
How We Can Help
Dunsing & Deakins handles all types of contract disputes & commercial litigation, including:
- Disputes over the terms of a contract
- Missed deadlines
- Failure to pay or deliver a product or service
- Failure to meet the terms of a contract or a secondary agreement (lease, mortgage, loan document, etc.)
- Lost profits
- Anticipatory breach
- Breach of a lease
- Breach of employment contract
- Breach of services contract
- Breach of supply contract
- Breach of buy-sell contract
- Breach of asset-purchase contract
- Breach of loan agreement
- Breach of operating agreements
- Business torts such as fraud and tortious interference with contract
- Temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in the business context
Protecting Your Business
If you believe there has been a breach of contract and that you are entitled to compensation, Lucy H. Deakins can provide you with the sound legal counsel you need. She can help you make the best decisions for you and your business. You can reach our Denver office at (303) 758-8981 or our Avon office at (970) 343-9923 to book your consultation.
“Lucy, Wendi, and Fred were all amazing throughout my case. Lucy's knowledge and expertise, as well as the law firm's professional connections with mediators and child family investigators, led to a custody resolution that truly represents the best interest of my son. Many thanks!” - Satisfied Client