What evidence is required to succeed in a claim for breach of contract?

What needs to be proved?

The existence of a contract and its terms

It is a common misapprehension that there must be a formal written contract which has been signed by the parties for an agreement to be legally binding. That is not generally the case. Whilst a formal written contract will in the majority of cases be the clearest evidence as to the existence of and terms of a contract, the existence of a contract and its terms can be proved in a number of ways. 

A contract is, at its simplest, an agreement entered into by 2 or more parties. In order for that agreement to constitute a legally binding contract 4 things must be present. These are as follows:

  • An offer

One or more party must offer something to the other party. That may be an offer to sell goods or provide services or an offer to buy goods or pay for services. For example, Bill may offer to wash Ben’s car for the sum of £10.00.

  • Acceptance of the offer

The party or parties to whom the offer is made must accept the offer. Acceptance need not be express but can be implied by the conduct of a party as long as it is clear that the party to whom the offer is made is accepting the offer. For example, when Bill offers to clean Ben’s car Ben may tell Bill that he would very much like it if Bill cleaned his car. Alternatively Ben may simply hand Bill a bucket of water and a sponge. Either way it is clear that Ben has accepted Bill’s offer.

  • Consideration

Each party to the contract must have something to give to the other. Generally one party will be giving a service or goods and the other party will be giving money for the service or goods. For example, Bill is providing a service to Ben by cleaning his car and Ben is giving Bill £10.00 for the service.

  • Intention to create legal relations

The parties to the contract must intend for the contract to be legally binding. For example, when Bill and Ben enter into a contract Bill intends to go through with washing Ben’s car and Ben intends to pay Bill once he has washed it.

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For more information on:

  • Breach of contract
  • How can it be proved?
  • Written evidence
  • The existence of the contract and its terms
  • Breach of contract
  • Oral evidence
  • The existence of the contract and its terms
  • Breach of contract
  • Expert evidence
  • Other types of evidence