Comparative Breach of Contract – The New Benefit of the Bargain in Construction?

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If a material breach is a “substantial factor” in causing damages, the breaching party must answer for all damages that were reasonably contemplated by the parties when they formed the contract.

October 26, 2020
Steven Hoffman - Florida Construction Law News

Ask most Florida Construction Law practitioners, and you will likely hear that liability may not be apportioned in “pure” breach of contract cases via the Comparative Fault Act, section 768.81, Florida Statutes (the “Act”). If a material breach is a “substantial factor” in causing damages, the breaching party must answer for all damages that were reasonably contemplated by the parties when they formed the contract. Claimants argue that matters of contract should be governed strictly by the agreement, and risk can be controlled by negotiated terms, including waivers and limitations. Defendants complain that construction projects are collaborative, multi-party affairs, and strict application of contract principles leads to harsh results for relatively minor comparative fault for the same or overlapping damages.

The notion of apportioning purely economic loss contract damages based on comparative fault is not new. Since April 2006, Florida has been a “pure” comparative fault jurisdiction with limited exceptions. Prior to the amendment, tort liability for non-economic damages was purely comparative, but liability for economic damages was typically a combination of joint and several liability with an additional exposure based on comparative fault.

Mr. Hoffman may be contacted at Steven.Hoffman@csklegal.com



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