Equitable Remedies in Contract Disputes
Business and Commercial Disputes By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2019/04/16 at 08:59pm
Experienced Business Dispute Lawyer in Alexandria, VA
If you’re involved in a serious commercial contract dispute, then you may be preliminary exploring the potential liabilities and what would make for a “best fit” recovery given the circumstances. Given the enormous diversity of contract claims, it should be unsurprising that courts make a wide range of remedies available.
Though most parties involved in a contract dispute are aware of legal remedies (i.e., monetary compensation for the financial losses sustained in a breach of contract scenario), equitable remedies may be available in cases where monetary compensation is simply insufficient or incompatible with the nature of the suffered loss.
Let’s take a closer look.
Restitution damages come into play when one party has taken steps to satisfy their obligations under contract (before it was breached). Though restitution damages fall under the “equitable remedy” umbrella, they are actually a form of financial compensation — the court may require that the breaching party pay restitution damages for the losses sustained by the plaintiff up to that point. This is meant to prevent the breaching party from being unjustly enriched by the plaintiff’s actions.
Specific performance may be ordered in situations where the defendant’s services or goods or of such a unique character that monetary compensation cannot adequately cover the losses sustained by the plaintiff. Specific performance can be somewhat difficult to understand, as they are so deeply circumstantial, so let’s explore a basic example for clarity.
Suppose that you have hired a famous painter to make a unique artwork to advertise your business. Unfortunately, the painter breaches the contract and chooses not to continue with the project. When determining whether a specific performance remedy is suitable, the court will weigh a number of factors, from the psychological burden of specific performance (i.e., forcing two hostile parties to work together) to the economic value of the defendant’s would-be painting, to the unique qualities of the defendant’s work and whether it can be adequately replaced.
Rescission is an equitable remedy in which the court cancels a contract, thus ending each party’s obligations under that contract. Once the contract has been canceled, the court may order that all the money that has been exchanged (up to that point) be returned, or may alternatively order the parties to enter into a new contract that is more suitable for their purposes.
Contract reformation is an equitable remedy in which the court has each party work together to modify the existing contract so that it is better represents their intentions. Contract reformation is typically used in cases where the underlying contract is valid, but there was a mistaken understanding of the contract terms (by one or more parties).
Contact Harvey & Binnall, PLLC for Guidance
Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique civil litigation firm with extensive experience representing clients in a variety of contract disputes, including those that involve losses that cannot be adequately resolved through monetary damages.
The possibility of an equitable remedy may be seen in a positive or negative light, depending on the position of a given party (with respect to the overall dispute and whether they feel the losses can be reasonably compensated through monetary means). Contract disputes — in which the issue of equitable remedies has become central to the case — can rapidly devolve into further complication. As such, it’s important that you work with a team of attorneys who have the experience, savvy, and detail-oriented approach necessary to secure a favorable result on your behalf.