CACI 300 Breach of Contract—Introduction

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

300 Breach of Contract—Introduction

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/it] and [name of defendant] entered into a contract for [insert brief summary of alleged contract].

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] breached this contract by [briefly state the alleged breach].

[Name of plaintiff] also claims that [name of defendant]’s breach of this contract caused harm to [name of plaintiff] for which [name of defendant] should pay.

[Name of defendant] denies [insert denial of any of the above claims]. [Name of defendant] also claims [insert affirmative defense].

Directions for Use

This instruction is designed to introduce the jury to the issues involved in the case. It should be read before the instructions on the substantive law.

Sources and Authority

The Supreme Court has observed that “[c]ontract and tort are different branches of law. Contract law exists to enforce legally binding agreements between parties; tort law is designed to vindicate social policy.” (Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia, Ltd. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 503, 514 [28 Cal.Rptr.2d 475, 869 P.2d 454].)

“The differences between contract and tort give rise to distinctions in assessing damages and in evaluating underlying motives for particular courses of conduct. Contract damages seek to approximate the agreed-upon performance … and are generally limited to those within the contemplation of the parties when the contract was entered into or at least reasonably foreseeable by them at that time; consequential damages beyond the expectations of the parties are not recoverable.” (Applied Equipment Corp., supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 515, internal citations omitted.)

Certain defenses are decided as questions of law, not as questions of fact. These defenses include frustration of purpose, impossibility, and impracticability. (Oosten v. Hay Haulers Dairy Employees and Helpers Union (1955) 45 Cal.2d 784, 788 [291 P.2d 17]; Mitchell v. Ceazan Tires, Ltd. (1944) 25 Cal.2d 45, 48 [153 P.2d 53]; Autry v. Republic Productions, Inc. (1947) 30 Cal.2d 144, 157 [180 P.2d 888]; Glen Falls Indemnity Co. v. Perscallo (1950) 96 Cal.App.2d 799, 802 [216 P.2d 567].)

“Defendant contends that frustration is a question of fact resolved in its favor by the trial court. The excuse of frustration, however, like that of impossibility, is a conclusion of law drawn by the court from the facts of a given case … .” (Mitchell, supra, 25 Cal.2d at p. 48, italics added.)

Estoppel is a “nonjury fact question to be determined by the trial court in accordance with applicable law.” (DRG/Beverly Hills, Ltd. v. Chopstix Dim Sum Cafe and Takeout III, Ltd. (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 54, 61 [35 Cal.Rptr.2d 515].)

“A settlement agreement is a contract, and the legal principles which apply to contracts generally apply to settlement contracts.” (Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter (2019) 7 Cal.5th 781, 789 [249 Cal.Rptr.3d 295, 444 P.3d 97].)

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Contracts, §§ 872–892
13 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 140, Contracts, § 140.50 (Matthew Bender)
5 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 50, Contracts, § 50.10 et seq. (Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 13, Attacking or Defending Existence of Contract—Absence of Essential Element, 13.03–13.17