What Constitutes a Breach of Contract

In Chicago and most jurisdictions, a breach of contract exists when someone either fails to perform or inadequately performs an enforceable contract obligation. A contract obligation is formed when two parties exchange promises or obligations. The law requires writing for some contracts and will not enforce certain agreements (eg, prostitution, gambling) for reasons of public policy. Minors, the mentally incapacitated and those under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be held to their bargains. If you are fraudulently induced to sign a contract, you may be excused from performing. The terms of the contract must be reasonably definite. However, if there is a contract and one of the parties fails to perform, then it is a breach of contract.

As with any rule, there are exceptions. If you failed to perform because the other party hindered or prevented your performance, you have an excuse. The contract itself may contain conditions (weather permitting, the garage will be painted on Wednesday, etc.). Exact and detailed performance may not be required if you have substantially performed.

All of these principles and more have to be examined in the context of customs and practices, your course of performance and the history of dealings between the parties.

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