The process for a breach of contract case is similar from one case to another. in Oklahoma If you’ve recently found yourself in a situation where you might be party to a breach of contract lawsuit, it is crucial to understand the legal process ahead. This kind of case may arise out of simple promises to pay, or more complex construction contract disputes. Other breach of contract cases may involve employment contracts or an agreement to sell real property or property line disputes. Whatever the contract dispute is, it’s important to understand what’s in front of you so that you can better protect your interests.
Understanding Contract Law In Oklahoma
Before diving into the lawsuit process, it’s essential to establish a firm understanding of what contract law is, and how it functions within the state of Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, contract law goes by the Oklahoma Statutes. These encompass a broad range of stipulations related to agreements and contracts. This statutory framework is complimented by common law, or judge-made law, based on prior court decisions.
Identifying A Breach Of Contract
A breach of contract occurs when a party to a formal agreement fails to honor their obligations as outlined in that agreement. This could mean not performing a task, doing something against the terms of the agreement, or not performing at all.
According to Oklahoma law, the obligations of a contract are either express or implied. An express contract is an agreed on task that is either written or verbal. An implied contract is one that is formed by conduct of the people involved. In the event of a breach, the injured party has the right to seek legal remedies for their losses. This can include consequential damages, actual damages, or in some circumstances punitive damages.
The Initial Steps: Notice Of Breach And Demand Letter
The first step in the process involves the non-breaching party sending a notice of breach to the other party, outlining the specifics of the alleged breach, and demanding correction within a specified timeframe. This written communication, known as a demand letter, may also provide a basis for damages if the case progresses to court.
Filing A Lawsuit: The Complaint And Answer
If the alleged breaching party does not rectify the breach or disputes the allegation, the next step is filing a complaint. This document provides a detailed account of the breach and requests relief, typically in the form of damages. This process is the petition. In Oklahoma the petition must state the amount of the damages and the specific relief that you are asking for. If you are asking for attorney fees associated with the lawsuit this is where you ask for them.
The petition must be served on the opposing party. Once again, the petition is designed to set out the damages you are after. It must also state what the breach of contract is. Usually the petition must be served first class certified mail with a return receipt. Sometimes your attorney may decide to use a process server. Upon receipt of the complaint, the defendant has 20 days to respond with an answer. If they fail to do so, the plaintiff may request a default judgment from the court. In some instances the answer will include affirmatives defenses or counterclaims.
During the discovery phase, both parties exchange pertinent information related to the lawsuit. This may include documents, witness information, and other evidence that supports their case. This phase can be time-consuming, but is crucial for preparing for trial or negotiations. The primary means to carry out discovery is as follows;
- Interrogatories: These are written questions that one party sends to another, and the responding party must answer them in writing and under oath.
- Depositions: A deposition is an oral testimony given by a witness or a party involved in the lawsuit. It is conducted under oath, typically in the presence of a court reporter, and can be used to question the deponent about their knowledge of the case.
- Requests for Production: Parties can request documents, records, and other tangible items related to the case. This can include things like contracts, emails, medical records, or other relevant materials.
- Requests for Admissions: A party can ask the other party to admit or deny specific facts or legal issues. This can help streamline the case by narrowing down the issues that are genuinely in dispute.
Negotiation And Settlement
Many breach of contract cases in Oklahoma are resolved before reaching the courtroom. After discovery, the parties typically have a clear picture of the strength of their case, and they may opt for negotiation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation or arbitration. If a settlement is reached, the terms are put into a contract, providing a legally binding resolution to the dispute. Its important to realize that before a case is settled your attorney should spend time with you evaluating the case. This evaluation will measure the cost of additional litigation against the case as a whole. Only after you and your business law attorney have worked through the facts will there be a firm understanding of the offer
Trial And Judgment
If a settlement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial. Both parties will present their evidence and arguments, after which the judge or jury makes a decision. In Oklahoma, either party has the right to request a jury trial.
If the plaintiff proves the contract was breached, Oklahoma law allows the court to award damages. According to Oklahoma Statutes, damages awarded are those which arise naturally, or ordinarily, in the usual course of things, from such breach of contract itself, or those damages which have been contemplated or could reasonably have been foreseen by both parties at the time they made the contract.
Appeals Of Courts
Following the trial, either party can appeal the court’s decision. An appeal must be based on a perceived error in the court’s handling of the case, not simply dissatisfaction with the result. An appeal in Oklahoma requires following very specific procedures. This begins with a notice of appeal, designation of record filing the record on appeal, and the oral arguments.
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Business Law Attorneys In Tulsa
The process for a breach of contract case requires that you prepare for what ever eventuality you may face. While breach of contract lawsuits can be complex and time-consuming, a clear understanding of the process can make a significant difference in your approach and outcome. Experienced Tulsa business lawyers at Kania Law Office can guide you through each step, ensuring your rights and interests are effectively represented. Call a us at (918) 743-2233 or contact us online.