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The Importance of Clearly Identifying a Violated Contract Term to Support Your Breach of Contract Claim in Georgia

Poole Huffman, LLC

Contract relationships can be like couples relationships: some are satisfying and mutually beneficial, some start out strong but eventually go off course, and others seemingly are beset with problems almost from the start. If you find yourself in the middle or last scenario, you may also have to deal with a breach of contract case in civil court. When the time comes to sue or to defend a lawsuit, be sure you have a knowledgeable Atlanta contract dispute lawyer handling your case.

A breach of contract case from here in North Georgia illustrates what can happen when two contract partners fall into that last category… and when a party’s case is missing some very important pieces.

In this case, a contractor and a subcontractor had an agreement for the subcontractor to do installation work. The subcontractor, however, did a grossly substandard job, according to the contractor. The subcontractor, in its defense, asserted that any problems with its work were the result of the contractor providing it with an insufficiently clean jobsite in which to do the work it agreed to perform.

According to the contractor, the subcontractor’s work was so shoddy that it had to hire another company and pay that entity more than $100,000 to finish or fix the work the original subcontractor was supposed to do.

The contractor never paid the subcontractor, so the subcontractor sued for unjust enrichment and breach of contract. The contractor countersued, also alleging unjust enrichment and breach of contract.

The subcontractor sought, and obtained, summary judgment throwing out the contractor’s breach of contract claim.

The problem the contractor had was actually a very basic one. As the court pointed out, neither side provided proof of a contract term that defined the subcontractor’s obligations at the worksite. The contractor, in support of its counterclaim, relied upon an affidavit from one of the subcontractor’s employees that said that he sent the contractor a quote and the contractor accepted the quote sometime in May 2019.

The quote contained some terms, such as “saying ‘punch list’ items are not a basis for withholding payment, installation is based on parameters previously given, all other contractors must be out of the workspace before [the subcontractor] starts, and deviations from the parameters can result in additional costs.” Critically — and fatally for the contractor’s breach of contract counterclaim — the contractor never identified which of those terms the subcontractor breached.

On that basis, the court summed up the weakness of the contractor’s counterclaim for breach of contract thusly: “Indeed, [the contractor] avers a contract that includes terms without ever saying [the subcontractor] violated those provisions. And absent evidence of the express contractual terms [the subcontractor] allegedly breached; [the contractor] could not prevail on its breach of contract claim.”

A successful contractual relationship has several essential hallmarks. It starts with a clear and well-written agreement. If problems arise, it is crucial to identify exactly what part of that clear agreement the other side violated if you are to succeed on a breach claim.

Another key to success — whether you’re drafting an agreement or contesting a dispute — is the right legal representation. For your commercial contract needs, rely on the experienced Atlanta commercial contracts attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC. Contact our team online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation today and find out how we can help your business.

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