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How are damages established in a breach of contract claim?

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How are damages established in a breach of contract claim?
Submitted: 4 months ago.Category: Business Law
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3/19/2018
Business Lawyer: RobertJDFL, Attorney replied 4 months ago
RobertJDFL
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Business Lawyer: RobertJDFL, Attorney replied 4 months ago

Good afternoon,

The goal of the court is to try and make a plaintiff who has suffered damages "whole." To put it another way, the goal is to put the plaintiff in a position either before the contract was entered into, or had the contract been completed successfully. In most cases, a person is going to claim "actual" damages. Actual damages (also called compensatory damages) is the money awarded for the actual harm incurred. For example, if you pay $1,000 to a mechanic to fix your car, and they never do the work, but refuse to return your money, your actual damages is $1,000.

There are other kinds of damages which can potentially be awarded, such as:

  • “Punitive damage” (additional money awarded to punish the defendant when the damage was caused deliberately and with malice);
  • “Special damages” (awarded to cover related expenses such as lost wages resulting from an accident); or
  • “Statutory damages” (awarded because the law specifically requires it).

Not every case will have all forms of damages, of course.

As far as establishing the damages, that goes to the weight of the evidence that the plaintiff has. Since a breach of contract is a civil action, a plaintiff has to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that they must persuade the court that their version is more likely to be true than not to be true. Here is another way to look at this -- you must show that over 50% of the believable evidence is in your favor.

So, going back to the example of the mechanic who never fixed the car, a plaintiff might show a report from another mechanic that no repairs were done and that repairs still needed to be made. Or, if I paid someone to paint my house, and they never did it, I can show a copy of the contract I signed, and pictures of the unpainted home.

Please let me know if I may clarify anything or provide additional information.

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