If you enter into an employment contract or another business contract, what happens in the situation where one of the parties breaches the contract? In short, if the plaintiff can prove a breach of contract, then she may be eligible to recover damages and/or attorneys fees.
Understanding the Elements of a Valid Contract in Texas
First, in order to prevail on a breach of contract claim, the plaintiff will need to be able to show that a valid contract existed. What are the elements of a valid contract? The Texas Court of Appeals case of Hallmark v. Hand (1994) cites the following as required elements of a valid contract:
- an offer;
- acceptance in strict compliance with terms of the offer;
- a meeting of the minds;
- a communication that each party has consented to the terms of the agreement; and
- execution and delivery of the contract with an intent that it become mutual and binding on both parties.
In other words, a valid contract involves an offer by one of the parties, acceptance by the other, a “meeting of the minds” of both parties with regard to the terms of the agreement, consent to the agreement, and a plan to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Elements of a Breach of Contract Claim Under Texas Law
Once you have established that there was a valid contract in existence, then you can move onto proving that there was a breach of contract. In the Texas Court of Appeals Case of Frost National Bank v. Burge, the court clarifies the four required elements of a breach of contract claim:
- existence of a valid contract;
- plaintiff performed or tendered performance;
- defendant breached the contract (did not perform his or her agreement in the contract); and
- plaintiff was damaged because of the defendant’s breach.
To put that language another way, to prove a breach of contract, the plaintiff must first be able to show that a valid contract existed, and then she must be able to prove that she did what she was supposed to do under the contractual agreement.
Then, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant did not comply with his or her part under the contractual agreement, and as a result, the plaintiff suffered damages.
Available Remedies in a Breach of Contract Case in Texas
Chapter 38 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows a plaintiff who has proven a breach of contract to recover reasonable attorney’s fees.
The plaintiff can also be eligible to receive a damages award. Depending upon the specific facts of a case, the amount of damages will vary depending upon the plaintiff’s specific losses and the amount it would require to put her in the position she would have been in but for the defendant’s breach.
Statute of Limitations for a Texas Breach of Contract Claim
If you want to file a breach of contract claim in Texas, it is important to understand how the statute of limitations might impact your case. Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code specifies that there is a four-year statute of limitations for breach of contract claims.
As such, you must typically file your lawsuit within four years from the date upon which the breach occurred or else forfeit your right to file a claim.