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When Does a Delay Constitute a Contract Breach?

Business and Commercial DisputesLitigation By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2020/11/02 at 11:48am

Work With an Experienced Alexandria Commercial Litigation Lawyer  

If you are involved in a contract dispute in which the central issue concerns the “timeliness” of performance, then you may be confused about whether the failure to perform one’s contract responsibilities in a timely manner could qualify as a breach.

Contracts vary quite significantly depending on the circumstances — with some contracts, a slight delay would hardly be considered a problem.  With other contracts, our Alexandria commercial litigation lawyer knows that a slight delay could lead to a domino effect of losses that seriously impact the other party.

Let’s take a closer look at how the timeliness of performance (or perhaps more accurately, the lack of timely performance) can influence liability.

“Time is of the Essence” in Contracts

In contract disputes, a delay in performance — for example, failing to meet the deadline for delivery of goods — will be considered a material breach if “time was of the essence” in the contract.  But contracts can differ quite a bit.  Some contracts include an express “time is of the essence” provision to ensure that there is very little ambiguity as to that aspect of contract performance.  Even still, however, courts may choose not to enforce the provision depending on the circumstances.

Ultimately, whether “time was of the essence” depends on whether timeliness was core to the benefit of the bargain (whether it was fundamental to the contact).  This can be difficult to understand without a more in-depth explanation, so let’s explore a brief example for clarity.

Suppose that you enter into a contract with another party in which the other party has agreed to loan you money so that you can invest in a short-term business opportunity.  The other party delays too long, however, and fails to provide the loan within a reasonable timeframe — they are one month late.  By the time they get you the loan money, the window of opportunity to invest has already passed.  Under these circumstances, a court would likely find that the delay was a material breach of contract, as “time was of the essence.”

Notably, there might not have been a material breach if the delay had been shorter (i.e., a week) and thus did not interfere with your ability to invest in the business opportunity.

Contact an Alexandria Commercial Litigation Lawyer at Harvey & Binnall, PLLC for Assistance

Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique commercial litigation firm based out of Alexandria, VA, serving clients throughout northern Virginia and the DC metro region.  We have decades of experience representing those involved in complex commercial disputes, including litigation centered on timeliness issues and contract performance delays.

We are committed to working closely with clients from beginning-to-end.  As we are open and transparent in communications with clients, we are able to gain critical insight into the case that gives us an advantage early in litigation.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced Alexandria commercial litigation lawyer, call us at 703-888-1943 or send us a message online to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.