I’m Reed Bloodworth, the managing partner of Bloodworth Law with offices in Orlando, Florida and Winter Haven, Florida.
One of the most common business disputes we see is a breach of contract. So what happens if you’re sued for breach of contract and need defenses in a Florida contract dispute?
It’s not enough to simply deny wrongdoing on your part if you’re accused of a breach of contract. You must assert defenses. I’m going to talk about some top defenses to breach of contract in Florida.
There are a number of defenses, known as affirmative defenses, which in Florida must be claimed in your answer to the lawsuit, or your ability to raise these defenses may be considered waived.
When a party to a contract fails to perform their contractual obligations, the injured party has a right to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
A breach of contract occurs when any act or omission of a party does not live up to the promises exchanged in the contract. Often times, it’s not even relevant as to whether the breach was intentional or unintentional.
In order to win a breach of contract claim in Florida, a party must prove:
- There was an enforceable contract
- A contractual promise was broken
- The broken promise caused damages to the pursuing party
It’s important to know that in a breach of contract, a plaintiff must prove all three elements to win.
But a defendant needs only prove one element wasn’t satisfied to prevail on a breach of contract claim.
A defendant in a breach of contract claim in Florida has 20 days to file a response. If a defendant denies all plaintiff claims, the plaintiff has the burden of proving their case.
The standard of evidence in a breach of contract claim is “by a preponderance of evidence.” Which means, more likely than not, these things happened.
In addition to denying the allegations in a breach of contract lawsuit answer, the response should also include affirmative defenses.
An affirmative defense does not necessarily deny the claims made in the complaint. Rather, an affirmative defense states a reason why the defendant’s actions were permitted and why the plaintiff should not prevail. A defendant has the burden to prove an affirmative defense claims by a preponderance of the evidence.
There are many defenses to a breach of contract claim. A few commons defenses include: the Statutes of Limitations; Fraud in the inducement; Duress; Impossibility of performance; illegality; mistake, and unclean hands.
- The Statute of Limitations means the time for file a complaint for breach of contract has expired. If a claim is filed after the statute of limitations has passed, that claim will be barred. In Florida, the statute of limitations for breach of contract claims is:
- 5 years for written contracts
- 4 years for oral contracts
- 1 year for specific performance of a contract requiring a party to perform a specific action per an existing contract
- Fraud in the inducement means one party to the contract was deceived into entering into the contract that is not in his or her best interest.
- Duress means a party was forced into signing an agreement against his or her will.
- Impossibility of performance means one party cannot perform according to the provisions of a contract because of an unforeseen incident (act of God, death, incapacity, property destruction, etc.).
- Illegality means if a contract violates state or federal law, then it is not a valid contract.
- For mistakes, there are Unilateral or mutual mistakes. A unilateral mistake means that one of the parties to the contract did not understand what the contractual agreement was. A mutual mistake means that both parties to the contact did not understand what the contractual agreement was. A contract is void if the parties entering into it were mistaken about the terms of the contract.
- Finally, an unclean hands defense is where a defendant claims a plaintiff is not entitled to relief because the plaintiff has done something wrong. Conduct that constitutes unclean hands may include failure to perform under the contract terms, fraud, coercion, or committing a crime.
Business owners seeking to protect their business interests should seek a qualified, competent advisor for assistance. Again, I’m attorney Reed Bloodworth, the managing partner of Bloodworth Law. If you have a breach of contract dispute in Florida, give me a call. Let’s talk about how Bloodworth Law can help you or your business.