Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Handle Various Breach of Contract Lawsuits
By Laine T. Wagenseller* A Los Angeles real estate trial attorney spends much of his or her time on breach of contract lawsuits.
Real estate transactions are almost always based on a contract—purchase and sale agreements and leases being the two most common. When something goes wrong in the relationship of the parties the solution to that dispute is usually found in the contract that governs their relationship.
In the event that the parties are not able to resolve their dispute between themselves, the real estate litigation attorney will often be called in to file a breach of contract lawsuit. The Los Angeles Superior Court hears lawsuits based on the breach of a real estate contract on a daily basis.
Breach of contract litigation can involve numerous legal issues and lawsuits arising from breach of real estate contracts can involve even more.
Four Key Questions
At their core every breach of contract lawsuit centers around four questions: Is there a contract? Did the one party perform his or her obligations under the contract? Did the other party breach the contract? Did that breach cause damage?
Whether there was a contract is usually not at issue in many real estate lawsuits since the parties will usually have a written contract.
However, not all contracts are written. Some are oral and some are implied in fact. Each type of contract in a real estate context will implicate different laws and statutes that apply specifically to real estate transactions.
Certain real estate transactions are governed by the statute of frauds and there must be some documentary evidence of the contract. But an experienced real estate litigation attorney also knows that the statute of frauds has more holes (exceptions) than Swiss cheese.
Breach of a written contract is governed by a four year statute of limitations but breach of an oral contract is governed by a two year statute of limitations. An implied in fact contract is not a carefully negotiated written contract but instead is one in which the parties discussions and course of activity appear to evidence a meeting of the minds.
Each type of contract comes with its own laws and sets of traps. A litigation attorney who specializes in real estate will be able to identify these issues so that you don’t fall into any of these traps.
The next two questions are whether the plaintiff or claimant has performed his or her obligations under the contract and whether the other side has breached his or her obligations. In some lawsuits this issue is clear cut: a party failed to pay. In other lawsuits the issue is not clear, even to experienced trial lawyers.
This may be because the particular dispute that has arisen is not directly addressed in the contract. It may be because the contract itself is not clearly written and the answer is not evident from the language of the contract. Interpretation of a contract is governed by a well thought out system.
A lawyer who handles numerous breach of contract lawsuits will know how to approach the thorny issue of contract interpretation so that he or she can guide the court to the outcome desired.
The Damages Question
The last issue in a breach of contract lawsuit in Los Angeles or anywhere is whether the alleged breaches caused damage.
Damages can be easily ascertained in some cases but very difficult to establish in others. Often the trial lawyer will need to retain a forensic accountant to help go through complex financial records to build a case for damages.
Sometimes it is even possible that a contract may have been breached but there are no damages or just nominal damages. The attorney who thoroughly analyzes this element prior to litigation will have a better sense of the economic viability of the lawsuit. In other words, is the lawsuit even worth it?
In those cases where there is no right for the prevailing party to collect attorneys’ fees at the end of the case, the cost of litigation may quickly surpass the potential recovery.
Even in those cases where the contract provides for the recovery of attorneys’ fees, litigation may not be smart if the other party has no money or no way to satisfy a judgment.
Breach of contract lawsuits can often have numerous interesting legal issues but presumably the client is interested in recovery rather than making legal history.
A client who is considering pursuing breach of contract litigation should seek out an experienced real estate litigation attorney who will evaluate the case at the outset.
The diligent trial lawyer should let his or her client know whether the case is worth pursuing, whether the four elements of breach of contract are met, whether there are damaging weaknesses in the case, how much it will cost to pursue the lawsuit and what are the chances of recovering on a judgment.
The litigation attorney who simply begins litigation with no plan and no foresight will often spend more than the case is worth and pursue meaningless fights that do not advance the case.
Los Angeles real estate litigation attorney Laine T. Wagenseller is the founder of Wagenseller Law Firm, where he specializes in real estate lawsuits. These lawsuits often include breach of contract allegations. For more information on Mr. Wagenseller and real estate litigation, please visit www.wagensellerlaw.com. You can contact Mr. Wagenseller at (213) 286-0371.