What Are the Types of Contract Breaches?

Even if you don’t have a lot of legal knowledge, you probably know that someone who has breached a contract has violated that contract in some way. In most cases, if one party breaks a legally binding contract in Rhode Island, the other party has some legal recourse.

Of course, in the legal arena, dealing with breaches of contract is more complex than it may seem at first. The exact way a lawyer handles a breach of contract dispute depends on the type of breach. Here’s what you need to know about the three main types of contract breaches.

Anticipatory Breach

An anticipatory breach is just what it sounds like. It’s a type of breach that happens once one party in the contract realizes the other will not be able to fulfill their contractual obligations in time. Essentially, an anticipatory breach lets one party call the other’s breach before the contract has technically been breached.

It’s easier to illustrate an anticipatory breach with an example. Suppose that you’ve hired a company to build a barn on your property by March 3. By March 2, the company hasn’t started on the work, which is a multi-day project. 

Because it’s clear that the building company isn’t going to hold up its end of the bargain, you might be able to sue for damages.

Material Breach

A material beach is sometimes referred to as a “total breach.” As the name suggests, a total breach describes a situation where one party completely fails to meet any of their duties as outlined in the contract.

A material breach is different from many other kinds of breaches in that the other party — the one not in violation — is legally allowed to both disregard the contract and sue for damages.

For example, perhaps you have an agreement to purchase a pickup truck. The truck you agreed to purchase is not damaged, but when the seller delivers it, one side is smashed in. 

Because what the seller delivers is so unlike what you agreed to purchase, the seller has materially breached the contract, and you aren’t obligated to pay for the smashed truck.

Minor Breach

A minor breach happens when one of the parties in the contract violates part of the contract, but the violation isn’t so significant that it renders the contract useless.

For instance, suppose that you hire a company to install some shelving in your home. The company arrives and installs the shelves you want. However, some of them are crooked, and many of the nails used are sticking out of the walls. 

The company hasn’t completely breached the contract — after all, they did show up and put in the shelves like you wanted. However, the contract likely included a provision stating that the work would be completed correctly. 

In this case, you couldn’t sue for breach of contract, but you likely could compel the company to fix the issues with the shelves or give you a partial refund.

Are you facing a breach of contract?

If you’ve entered into a contract with another party only to see them violate that contract, it’s easy to feel powerless. Often, there’s not a great deal that you can do on your own to remedy the situation in Rhode Island. But when you work with a business litigation lawyer, you’ll find yourself in a much better position to negotiate.

At the Law Offices of William M. Kolb, LLC, our experienced business litigation team takes pride in providing clients throughout Rhode Island with personalized and rigorous representation. Contact us to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can protect your interests today.