In Georgia, a contract is a promise or set of promises in which one party agrees to do or not to do something in exchange for something of value. A breach occurs when one of the parties does not follow through with his end of the bargain. In order to recover damages for the breach, the party bringing the lawsuit must prove all elements of the breach of contract by a preponderance of the evidence.
The person bringing forth the lawsuit must have "the right to complain of the contract being broken," as the Georgia Court of Appeals stated in the 2008 case of Kuritzky v. Emory Univ., 294 Ga. App. 370, 371. Without the complaining party having this status, he will not have the standing necessary for a court to award him damages.
Before a court can enforce a contract or award damages for its breach, the plaintiff must show that the contract was valid. The contract must have been based on a meeting of the minds of the parties. Additionally, it must contain all material terms so that it is clear what the contract was about and what the parties agreed to. For example, it should include the subject matter of the contract, the price, time, conditions of payment and any other terms important to the parties.
Some contracts in Georgia are required to be in writing or they will be unenforceable. For example, surety contracts, contracts for the sale of land, contracts that are impossible to perform within one year and promises for the lending of money must be in writing.
The plaintiff has the burden of proof showing that the defendant breached the contract in some way. A breach occurs when one of the parties to the contract does not perform his duties under the terms of the contract. This may result when one of the parties did not pay the amount required in the contract, or it may occur when one of the parties failed to perform a service listed in the contract. A breach also can occur when the quality of goods is not up to par, based on the seller's warranties. The breach must usually be material to the contract, meaning that it had significance to both parties at the time the contract was formed, such as the timing of receiving services and the amount that is required to be paid.
The plaintiff also has the burden of showing that he suffered some real damages. In the business context, it can be difficult to prove the actual amount of damages. However, the amount of lost profits is one form of damages under such cases. Lost profits may be derived by comparing the breached contract to a similar business experience or by having an expert economic witness testify as to the value of the contract.