The Law of Contracts rarely provides for “punishment” of a person who does not keep his or her promise in a legally enforceable agreement. Contracts are about business. Therefore, the law is more concerned with economics than fairness, although fairness is not to be disregarded. The law is actually designed so that a party is free to determine whether keeping or breaking a promise makes better business sense without fearing punishment.
Even so, people often break contracts whether it makes economic sense or not. Moreover, the non-breaching party often must sue to get paid. Because contract law is not aimed at punishment, the law will allow you to try to get into the same economic position you would have been in had the other party kept their promise(s). For example, if a builder agrees to build your house for $150,000 but quits $100,000 into the job, your damages are everything you might have to pay above $50,000 to have the house completed by someone else.
However, there is one form of “punishment” in a contract-based lawsuit. The normal rule in the US is that each party to a lawsuit pays their own costs and attorney fees. However, contract cases in Oklahoma involve a “fee shifting” statute. In short, the loser has to pay the winner’s costs and attorney fees. Consequently, it is possible for a $1,000.00 legal dispute to rack up $5,000.00 in attorney fees that the loser will have to pay in addition to their own legal fees. Thus, there are substantial risks in suing on a contract. Our firm can help you assess your risks.
In some cases, the court might award something other than money damages. For example, in real estate sales, it is possible the Court will order one party to convey land to another party pursuant to a contract for sale. Cases involving such orders are uncommon and vastly outnumbered by money damages cases.
Many people are surprised to learn that there is no automated system for making a judgment debtor pay their judgment amount. That’s why contract enforcement does not mean much without its twin, judgment enforcement.