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The first step in contract litigation: Do you have a contract?

Running a business here in Kansas City means that you probably enter into agreements with other companies and individuals who benefit your endeavors. You rely on these agreements to make sure that you receive the payment, goods or services expected from the other party.

When those relationships do not go as planned, you may look to your agreements in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, you could come across a party who refuses to live up to the deal you made, and now you believe your only recourse is to take the other party to court.

First thing's first

Before moving forward with a lawsuit, you will need to show that you have a valid contract with the other party that the court can enforce. In order to make that determination, the contract must contain the following elements:

  • Both parties must understand the seriousness of the contract's contents and must be competent. When entering into the contract, neither party can be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or be a minor or in some way mentally deficient.
  • The contract cannot include an illegal purpose. It cannot require one or both parties to break the law.
  • Both parties must consent to enter into the contract.
  • The contract must contain a specific offer from one party.
  • The other party must accept that offer.
  • The contract must contain consideration in exchange for the offer. The consideration is often money but does not have to be.

If the contract that is the subject of your dispute does not contain all of these elements, the court may not rule it valid. This doesn't make the contract illegal but possibly invalid. Thereafter, you will need to prove to the court that the other party breached the contract or failed to live up to his or her end of the bargain.

What happens next?

Once you establish a valid contract and that a breach occurred, the court can consider what relief is appropriate under the circumstances. You may request monetary and non-monetary relief. Non-monetary relief could include the court issuing an injunction to stop the other party from doing something, or issuing an order for the other party to perform his or her obligations under the contract. It all depends on what will provide you with the best possible outcome.

As you may surmise, this article outlines a simplification of the actual process. You could increase your chances of a successful outcome to your dispute by enlisting the aid and advice of an experienced attorney.

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