Articles Tagged with New Jersey Contract Lawyers

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Contract drafting and negotiation is one of the most important aspects of New Jersey business law.  Contracts govern the relationship between business parties.  Therefore, it is vital to ensure that a contract embodies the terms which the parties bargained for, and protects their interests.  And it must meet all the legal requirements for contracts to be enforceable.signature-3113182__340-300x200

The Appellate Division recently explored those requirements, and the consequences which follow when they are not met, in the case of Tyler at First Street, LLC vs. Yengo.


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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 able-account-300x214will 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.

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Types of Contract Damages

In New Jersey business law disputes, there are two broad categories of damages, legal damages and equitable damages.

Briefly, legal damages, or remedies in law, are money damages.  Legal damages are for harms which can be compensated by the payment of money by the party which breached the contract.  In New Jersey contract law, punitive damages are not allowed.  Likewise, attorneys fees cannot be recovered unless the contract provider for it.  Compensatory damages, which are the amount of money needed to make the innocent party whole, may be awarded when they can be proved.  In business disputes these are often lost profits, but may also include other damages such as diminution of value of property.

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Enforceable contracts are the bedrock of a strong economy. If contracts were not enforced, parties could not rely on the other side performing because there would be no remedy if they breached. Therefore, commerce would break down. Enforceable contracts are so important to the economy, in fact, that the freedom to contract is included in both the New Jersey and United States Constitutions. Before a contract can be enforced, however, the parties and the reviewing court must figure out what the contract means. When the terms are clear this normally isn’t a problem. However, when the contract is ambiguous, or even just a part of it is unclear, the question becomes what evidence may be admitted to determine the meaning and intent of the contract.

As I’ve written earlier, New Jersey courts generally adhere to the “parole evidence rule,” which holds that when there is a clear, unambiguous contract, extrinsic, or external, evidence beyond the four walls of the contract is inadmissible to prove what the contract means. However, in New Jersey business law, the exceptions come close to swallowing the rule. Indeed, the New Jersey Supreme Court held as far back as 1953, in the case of Atlantic Northern Airlines v. Schwimmer, that all evidence is relevant if it will assist the trier of fact in determination what the parties to a contract intended and what the contract means – even if that evidence is extrinsic.

The question, then, is what sort of extrinsic evidence is admissible? In the case of commercial contracts, one source of evidence is custom and usage.

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signature-962364__340-300x225Representing parties negotiating contracts and litigating over breach of contracts are some of our attorneys’ main practice areas.  New Jersey contract law recognizes both contracts and “quasi-contracts.”  This post examines what these are and the differences between them.


New Jersey contract law defines a contract as a voluntary agreement for mutual obligations based on a common understanding resulting from “offer and acceptance.”   New Jersey’s Model Civil Jury Charges have laid out the required elements to create a binding contract: (1) a meeting of the minds between the parties to the contract, (2) offer and acceptance, (3) valid consideration, ie., mutuality of obligations,  and (4) certainty — clear and definite terms.

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