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In California how does a court determine if the meaning/definition of "substantial compliance" used in a contract/agreement?

San Francisco, CA |

In an agreement with a regulatory agency with enforcement power, one of the requirements was "substantial compliance." The agreement failed to define "substantial compliance." How will a California court define or determine the meaning of substantial compliance in this context? So far I have found many cases discussing the Doctrine of Substantial Compliance applied in cases where there is a question of compliance with a specific statute or Act. I am looking more for cases where the term substantial compliance was used in the contract/agreement but was not defined. I am looking for California cases and 9th Circuit cases on point.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Usually a factual determination based on a showing of admissible evidence in a pre-trial context.

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  2. The rules of contract construction provide that an undefined term in a contract will be given its plain and ordinary meaning. If the term is ambiguous, the court will then look to extrinsic evidence to determine what the parties intended. If there is no extrinsic evidence of the party's actual intent, the court will turn to other ways to construe the term, such as how that term is usually construed in these circumstances, who drafted the agreement and many other options.

    Here, I believe a court would turn to the case law that you have already found regarding the doctrine of substantial compliance.

    Good luck to you

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  3. Looking at the definition of "substantial performance" (the more common term in the contract context) in my Black's Law Dictionary, the major components are (a) no willful departure from the terms of the contract and (b) no omission of any essential performance requirement (i.e., any omission is unimportant).

    This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

  4. You will only find appellate cases. You probably should go to a law library in your state. They are usually available in big citgies, courts and courts. Lool for one that allows computer research on West Lawour or Nexus. If you are not computer literate ask for the aid of a Librarian, More than likely this is a fact question and if you can not find a case on point (identical facts) you need to consult with an Attorney. Currently I only handle cases in Los Angeles County and Orange County in California and rather large cases in Federal Court. If your case is in either of those jurisdictions, you may call me for an appointment in my offices
    Stephen R. Cohen 213-819-1171. I will be out of town untilo Monday 11/12/2012

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