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The Elements of a Breach of Contract Claim in Pennsylvania

Posted by attorney Casey Green

In Pennsylvania, a breach of contract action involves (1) the existence of a contract, (2) a breach of a duty imposed by the contract, and (3) damages. J.F. Walker Co., Inc. v. Excalibur Oil Group, Inc.,792 A.2d 1269 (Pa.Super.2002). Additionally, it is axiomatic that a contract may be manifest orally, in writing, or as an inference from the acts and conduct of the parties. John Edward Murray, Jr., Cases and Materials on Contracts 184 (3rd ed.1983) (citation omitted).

Nevertheless, the Statute of Frauds, as applied in Pennsylvania, renders oral contracts for the sale of real estate as unenforceable, although not invalid. Therefore, such oral contracts will not be specifically enforced, but they may possibly form the basis for an action to recover damages. Hostetter v. Hoover, 378 Pa.Super. 1, 547 A.2d 1247, 1250 (1988), Alloc. denied 523 Pa. 642, 565 A.2d 1167 (1989). The purpose of the statute is to prevent perjury and fraudulent claims. Id.

In a breach of contract action, damages are awarded to compensate the injured party for loss suffered due to the breach. The purpose of damages is to put the plaintiff in the position he or she would have been in but for the breach. Maxwell v. Schaefer, 381 Pa. 13, 21, 112 A.2d 69, 73 (1955); Harman v. Chambers, 358 Pa. 516, 521, 57 A.2d 842, 845 (1948); Mancini v. Morro w, 312 Pa.Super. 192, 204, 458 A.2d 580, 586 (1983). The measure of recovery and the method of evaluation that are adopted should in every case be so adjusted as to attain as nearly as possible the purpose of our system of remedial justice. This purpose is to put the injured party in as good a position as the promised performance would have put him, having regard both to the reasonable foreseeability of the harm and to the extent that it could reasonably have been avoided by the injured party himself. 5 Corbin on Contracts § 1005 at 63 (1951).

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