Disputes in law are common in various aspects of life, especially in business.
Contract disputes are no exception.
While contracts serve as useful and legally binding agreements between parties, sometimes disagreements and conflicts can arise after they have been created.
In this article, we will examine contract disputes, why they can occur, and how to resolve them.
- A contract dispute is a conflict or disagreement between parties. They occur when there are differing views or claims regarding the terms, obligations, or rights outlined in the document.
- They can arise over unclear terms, breaches of contract, or failure to fulfill obligations.
- There are two main types of contract disputes: material and minor.
- Effective contract management software helps simplify the entire process and keep everything above board.
What are disputes in law?
Disputes in law refer to conflicts or disagreements between parties that involve legal issues.
These disputes can arise in many areas, including contract, property, or employment law.
You may be wondering just how disputes can occur. Well, there are many reasons why one party may wish to dispute a contract, which can cause problems on either side.
Parties may have conflicting interests, rights, or interpretations of the law and seek a resolution through legal means.
In a legal dispute, one party may assert their rights or claims, while another may challenge or deny those assertions. A dispute in law can happen for several reasons, including:
- Contractual disagreements
- Breaches of legal obligations
- Property disputes
- Personal injury claims
- Employment conflicts
- Family law matters
Resolving legal disputes often involves the application of relevant laws, statutes, regulations, and legal principles.
Parties may choose to try negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation to seek a resolution to their dispute amicably.
It’s important to note that disputes in law are a normal part of the legal system and are resolved through established legal procedures.
A resolution such as mediation considers the rights and interests of the parties involved.
As well as this, it can also help them to address how they can move forward together.
What is a contract dispute?
So, what is a contract dispute?
A contract dispute is a conflict or disagreement between parties. It can stem from the interpretation, performance, or enforcement of a contract.
This happens when either party in a contractual relationship has differing views or claims regarding the terms, obligations, or rights outlined in the drafted contract.
They can materialize in many ways, such as through misunderstandings, disagreements over contractual language, failures to fulfill terms set out, breaches of contract, payment issues, delivery problems, or any other disagreement related to the contractual relationship.
Resolving contract disputes can sometimes require careful examination of the contract terms, communication, and negotiation between the parties.
In some cases, you may need to involve legal professionals or consider alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation.
The purpose of contract dispute resolution is to:
- Clarify the intentions of the parties
- Determine the rights and obligations of each party
- Provide a fair and appropriate remedy for any breaches or losses suffered.
Both sides of the dispute need to work together to find a solution that still allows them to uphold the terms of the contract while maintaining the rights and interests of each party involved.
Reasons why contract disputes arise
Contract disputes can occur for many reasons, and you must understand their underlying causes to address and resolve them effectively.
Some common reasons for contract disputes include:
1. Ambiguous or vague terms
Contracts that contain unclear or ambiguous language may lead to misunderstandings and differing interpretations, resulting in disputes.
2. Failure to fulfill obligations
When either party isn’t able to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the contract, it can lead to disputes regarding performance, quality, or timeliness.
3. Breach of contract
Another reason contract disputes may arise is in the case of a breach of contract.
This is when one party fails to perform a duty or obligation as specified in the contract.
Breaches can be minor or material, depending on the severity and impact on the non-breaching party.
4. Disagreements over changes or modifications
Contract disputes may arise when parties disagree on proposed changes or modifications to the contract terms, including price adjustments, scope changes, or timelines.
5. Payment and pricing issues
Disputes regarding payment terms, pricing structures, or billing discrepancies can also lead to contract disputes.
6. Force majeure events
There may be a contract dispute in the event of unpredictable circumstances.
This can include natural disasters that are beyond the control of the parties.
This could give rise to disputes regarding force majeure clauses and their applicability.
Who can dispute a contract?
Any party directly involved in the contractual relationship can dispute the contract.
This includes both the party seeking to enforce it and the party on the other side on which it is being enforced.
As well as the parties already listed in the contract, other parties who have a direct interest or are affected by it may also have the right to dispute it under certain circumstances.
Here are some examples of parties who can dispute a contract:
The primary parties involved in the contract are the ones who enter into the agreement and are bound by its terms.
They have the right to dispute the contract if there are disagreements, breaches, or issues related to its interpretation or performance.
Assignees and transferees
A business may decide to assign or transfer their rights or obligations under a contract to a third party.
These assignees or transferees step into the shoes of the original party and assume their rights and obligations.
As a result, they may be able to dispute the contract if necessary.
Contracts often include details that pass benefits or obligations on individuals or entities who are not parties to the contract.
These individuals or entities are known as third-party beneficiaries.
A third-party beneficiary can dispute the contract if they have a direct interest in the contract’s subject matter.
However, this will depend on the terms of the contract and the surrounding laws.
In some contracts, a guarantor can provide a guarantee or assurance of performance or payment by one of the contracting parties.
The guarantor would have the right to dispute the contract if there are disputes or issues related to the performance or payment.
How to dispute a contract?
Now let’s look at how you may go about disputing a contract.
While the exact process may differ, the following general steps can guide parties in resolving their contract disputes:
1. Review the contract
Thoroughly examine the contract to understand the disputed terms, obligations, and potential remedies available.
2. Communicate with the other party
Open up the floor for an honest and frank conversation with the other party to clarify misunderstandings, address concerns, and attempt to resolve the dispute amicably.
This could involve face-to-face meetings, emails, or formal written communications.
3. Mediation and negotiation
If direct communication fails to solve the dispute, parties may consider engaging in mediation or negotiation.
Mediation involves the assistance of a neutral third party who facilitates discussions and helps parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
Negotiation involves direct discussions between the parties involved to find a middle ground and resolve the dispute without litigation.
In some cases, contracts may include arbitration clauses that require parties to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than via litigation.
This involves submitting the dispute to an impartial arbitrator or panel, who then make a decision that the parties involved must abide by.
If all other methods fail or are not viable options, parties may choose to pursue litigation by filing a lawsuit in a court of law.
Litigation can be a lengthy and costly process, but it allows for a resolution through a judgment rendered by a judge or jury.
Types of contract breaches
There are two main types of contract breaches; material and minor. Let’s look at what these mean.
A material breach is when there is a complete breach of the contract between both parties, leading the rest of the contract to become null and void.
This occurs when a party’s failure to perform a contract term is significant enough to undermine the fundamental purpose of the entire thing.
It goes to the heart of the contract and is considered a substantial violation of its terms.
It’s also known as a total breach, and when this happens, the non-breaching party may have the right to terminate the contract, seek damages, and pursue other remedies available under the law.
What’s more, the party who hasn’t breached any terms is typically excused from further performance of their own contractual obligations.
Parties may wish to take steps to avoid this altogether, such as resolving disputes with mediation, etc. But when this is not successful, it may lead to the contract being torn apart completely.
A minor breach (also known as a partial breach or immaterial breach) can occur when a party fails to perform a specific term of the contract.
However, this does not necessarily impact the overall performance or essence of the contract.
In the instance of a minor breach, the non-breaching party may be entitled to seek damages for the losses incurred due to the breach.
Notably, though, it doesn’t have the right to terminate the contract because of the minor breach. In fact, they are still required to perform their own contractual obligations.
The non-breaching party has a duty to mitigate damages by taking reasonable steps to minimize any losses caused by the breach.
Roles and responsibilities of a contract lawyer
Contract lawyers have various roles and responsibilities when they are drafting a contract. They play a crucial role in contract dispute resolution. Their responsibilities may include:
Contract lawyers carefully review the terms, conditions, and provisions of a contract to ensure clarity, legality, and compliance with applicable laws.
Negotiation and drafting
Contract lawyers assist in the negotiation and drafting of contracts to protect their clients’ interests and mitigate potential disputes.
Contract lawyers provide legal advice in contract dispute cases.
They guide clients through dispute resolution methods and represent their interests in mediation, arbitration, or litigation proceedings.
Legal analysis and strategy: They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the case, conduct legal research, and develop strategies to support their clients’ positions in contract disputes.
Set clear expectations on your contract and avoid a contract dispute
Contract disputes can be complex and costly, but with proper understanding and proactive measures, they can be effectively managed and resolved.
By understanding the reasons behind contract disputes, parties can navigate the challenges associated with contract disputes more efficiently.
Prevention is always better than cure.
To avoid potential disputes, try to set clear expectations and establish a solid foundation for the contract.
Use clear and concise language when drafting the contract to avoid any misinterpretation and misunderstandings in the future.
Effective contract management software like PandaDoc can help you navigate the entire process and ensure your contracts are airtight.
Why not request a demo today?