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6 reasons California business owners can legally break a contract

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2023 | Business Law

Contracts are the backbone of many business transactions, outlining obligations and expectations for all parties involved. According to a study conducted by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, contract disputes are among the most common legal issues faced by businesses in the state, accounting for approximately 30% of all business-related legal conflicts.

There are situations in which a California business owner may have a legal basis to break a contract. Understanding when these apply can help you mitigate the risks associated with contractual agreements.

1. Mutual agreement

Mutual agreement is one of the most straightforward ways to legally terminate a contract in California. If all parties consent to end the contract and document their agreement in writing, the contract becomes null and void.

2. Breach by the other party

When the other party fails to meet their contractual obligations, it can provide grounds for contract termination. The affected party can terminate the contract without penalty if the breach is substantial and material. You must review the contract terms carefully to ensure the breach qualifies as substantial.

3. Impossibility of performance

Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances make it impossible for a party to fulfill their contractual duties.  Examples of impossibility of performance include natural disasters, government regulations or the death of a key individual critical to the contract. When these events render performance impossible, the contract can be legally terminated.

4. Frustration of purpose

Frustration of purpose happens when the contract’s primary purpose becomes impossible to achieve due to unforeseen events, giving business owners a legal basis to break the contract.  For instance, if a business rents a venue for a conference, but the venue becomes unavailable due to circumstances beyond its control, the contract may become frustrated.

5. Misrepresentation or fraud

If a party entered into a contract based on fraudulent or misleading information provided by the other party, the injured party may have grounds to end the contract. California law allows contract cancelation when one party’s misrepresentation significantly influenced the agreement.

6. Lack of capacity

Contracts may be voidable if one party lacks the legal capacity to enter into the contract. This can occur if a party was a minor at the time of contract formation or was mentally incapacitated.

Business owners should assess their situation carefully and comply with applicable laws.