Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in a Breach of Contract Case

Issue: When is a party entitled to summary judgment in a case involving a breach of contract?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Breach of contract; Summary judgment
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 421 A.2d 747; 854 F. Supp. 387; 944 F. Supp. 398
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2007

In order to prove entitlement to damages for breach of contract, there must be proof of the existence of a contract and a breach of that contract that proximately caused damages.  Jo-Ann’s Launder Ctr., Inc. v. Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 854 F. Supp. 387, 389 (D.V.I. 1994).  When there are clear factual disputes as to whether the plaintiff was in default under the contract and whether the default was cured, “summary judgment is not appropriate with respect to [the] breach of contract claims.”  Id. at 389-90 (finding further that there was a factual dispute as to whether the alleged breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages).  Thus, for example, in Battaglia Electric, Inc. v. Bancroft Construction Co., No. Civ.A.01C04114RRC (Del. Super. Ct. Mar. 13, 2003), the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on its breach of contract claim because there were material issues in dispute. 

In Barnhill v. Trans Healthcare, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:CV-04-1858 (M.D. Pa. July 21, 2006), the court concluded that summary judgment was inappropriate on the issue “whether Plaintiff tendered the funds necessary to exercise his option or otherwise satisfied his contractual obligations prior to exercising his option.”  To the same effect was the court’s decision in Tom Morello Construction Co. v. Bridgeport Federal Savings & Loan Association, 421 A.2d 747, 751-52 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1980), in which the appellate court reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment where there remained a disputed issue […]

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