Legal Terms

Breach meaning in law and legal documents

A breach is the violation or non-fulfillment of a legal obligation, particularly within a contract.

Normal people might use the word "violation" instead of "breach"

Need help making sense of complex legalese?

Detangle your own document →

What does breach mean in legal documents?

When we talk about a "breach" in a legal context, think of it as someone breaking a promise that was sealed by a formal agreement. This agreement is often a contract, which is a written or spoken understanding between two or more parties that is enforceable by law. For example, if you agree to sell your bike to someone for $100, and they agree to buy it, you've created a contract. Now, if you decide not to sell the bike after receiving the payment, or if the buyer doesn't pay you after taking the bike, there's a breach.

A breach can be big or small, depending on what the contract says and how important the broken promise is. If the breach is small, like delivering the bike a day late, it's often called a minor breach. This might be annoying, but it doesn't completely ruin the purpose of the contract. However, if the breach is big, like if you sold the bike to someone else when you had already agreed to sell it to the first buyer, this is a major breach because it goes against the main point of the contract.

When a breach occurs, the party that suffered from the broken promise has some options. They can ask a court to enforce the contract, which might mean making the breacher follow through with their promise or pay for the trouble caused. Alternatively, they could just accept the breach, cancel the contract, and maybe even ask for money to cover any losses they've suffered because of the breach.

It's important to remember that not every disagreement or problem in a contract leads to a breach. Sometimes, what one person sees as a breach, the contract allows for, under certain conditions. This is why contracts often have terms that say what happens if things don't go as planned. In the end, determining a breach often requires looking carefully at the contract itself, the actions of the involved parties, and sometimes, the judgment of a court.

What are some examples of breach in legal contracts?

Need help making sense of complex legalese?

Detangle your own document →