Why Can’t I Get Pain and Suffering for a Breached Contract

tytanium | 12.21.17

Entering into a contract with someone is an act of trust.  The two of you come together and make promises.  Promises that the other person relies upon.  When someone breaches the contract, there is pain, frustration, and anger.  It often feels like a personal attack.  Because of this, clients often ask us to make a claim for pain and suffering as part of their breach of contract cause of action.  They are often frustrated to learn that pain and suffering damages are not permitted for breach of contract cases in California.

An award of damages for breach of contract is intended to give the injured party the benefit of his bargain. Martin v. U-Haul Co. of Fresno (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 396, 409.  In other words, the goal is to put the injured party in as good as position as he would have been in had performance been rendered as promised. Brandon & Tibbs v. George Kevorkian Accountancy Corp. (1990) 226 Cal.App.3d 442, 468.  To add additional compensation for pain and suffering would, according to the case law, fall beyone that goal.

There are many methods that can be used to give the injured party the benefit of his bargain, and generally the non-breaching party is entitled to elect his or her remedy. Akin v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 291, 296.  One common method is an award of damages.  Rescission of the contract – essentially making it as though the contract had never existed – is also an option. Ibid.

In certain circumstances, a party can seek specific and preventative relief. Civ. Code §§ 3366, 3420; Union Oil Co. of California v. Greka Energy Corp. (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 129, 136.  In that situation, the party would be able to force the breaching party to comply with the terms of the agreement or to take other action to remedy the breach of the contract.

A plaintiff has full control over which remedy to choose, and is often able to allege contradictory remedies prior to trial, making their remedy election at a later date. Warfield v. Richey(1959) 167 Cal.App.2d 93, 99.  If someone has breached an agreement with you, call LloydWinter P.C.  We can help you decide the type of damages to seek to rectify the breach and advise you as to your litigation options.

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