Liquidated Damages Provide Measure of Certainty Under New Jersey Contract Law
New Jersey Business Law and Liquidated Damages
Business parties draft contracts to give them a measure of certainty in their future relationship. However, it is not a secret that contracts are frequently breached, so parties often want a degree of certainty about what will happen in the event of a future breach. This gives rise to greater likelihood that the contract will be performed, and hopefully limits litigation costs if there is a breach. However, New Jersey business law, and indeed contract law generally, prohibits penalties in contracts. Thus, damages for breach of contract must reflect actual damages to put the innocent party in as good a place as it would have been had the breach not happened, rather than a greater amount to penalize a breaching party.
But when drafting a contract for a business relationship which will be performed in the future, it is often impossible to know what the amount of damages will be. Too many things are unknown, such as whether the relationship will be profitable and if so how profitable; and how much time will remain on the contract when a breach occurred, and thus how long the damages will accrue. For this reason New Jersey contract law allows for liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are an estimate of actual damages included in a contract to give more certainty about what will happen in the event of a breach. But liquidated damages must be a good faith estimate of actual damages in order to be valid and enforced.