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When are contractual disputes material versus minor?

Contracts form the backbone of most business dealings in Jackson. Both sides to a contract intend to benefit from it in some way. For example, they may gain a good or service in exchange for money. Therefore, if a contract is "breached" and one party does not uphold their side of the bargain, it can lead to contractual disputes.

When a contract is breached, the court must consider a number of factors. First, there must be proof that the contract existed and, if this is proven, what each party was to do under the contract. Whether the contract was changed at any point in time will need to be considered. It also must be shown that the act that the non-breaching party is saying breached the contract actually occurred and, if so, was it material? Whether the party that allegedly breached the contract has any legal defenses will be considered. Finally, the breach must have caused the plaintiff to suffer damages.

It is important to understand how a material breach differs from a minor breach, particularly when it comes to what each side is obligated to do under the contract and what remedies are available. A material breach is one in which the plaintiff, due to the breach, received something other than what they agreed to in the contract. The item or service received must be substantially different from that which the parties agreed on in the contract. In a material breach, the plaintiff is relieved of the duty to perform under the contract and is also entitled to any remedies that would exist as if the whole contract had been breached.

A minor breach is one in which, even though the defendant did not fully uphold their end of the bargain, the plaintiff still received in part some of what they were due under the contract. In a minor breach, the plaintiff still must do what they agreed to per the contract. However, they can still be awarded damages related to the breach.

The difference between a minor breach and a material breach is important, as it affects what both parties are required to do and what damages can be pursued. Those who want more information on this topic may want to seek professional assistance.

Source: jec.unm.edu, "Breach of Contract," accessed Feb. 17, 2018

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