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Is Breach of Contract a Civil or Criminal Case in Georgia?

Most people understand that Georgia’s court system is split between civil and criminal matters. However, many might not know in which court a breach of contract case will be heard.

While breaching a contract can be shocking, it does not usually rise to the level of a crime in Georgia. Thus, breach of contract cases will be heard in civil court, which results in financial compensation rather than imprisonment. Still, proving you lived up to your end of the deal can be challenging with the help of our lawyers. Our firm knows the nuances of Georgia’s civil court system and the best strategies to get the remedy you need to make things right. We can help determine which solution fits your circumstances and how the civil process will impact your case.

For a review of your case with our Georgia breach of contract lawyers, contact Howe & Associates by calling (678) 680-6983.

Are Breach of Contract Cases Civil or Criminal in Georgia?

In Georgia, a breach of contract is primarily considered a civil matter. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or entities, typically over rights, obligations, and liabilities under contractual and legal duties. In contrast, criminal law addresses offenses against the state or society at large, with penalties including fines payable to the state and imprisonment.

Civil cases, like those involving a breach of contract, are initiated by the aggrieved party, known as the plaintiff. This plaintiff seeks to obtain a remedy for the harm caused by the breach. The defendant is the party alleged to have breached the contract.

The primary objective in a civil breach of contract case is to make the injured party “whole” again, typically through monetary compensation or some other solution. Thus, defendants are not found “guilty” in civil cases like they are in criminal ones, but are considered “liable.”

However, certain circumstances surrounding the breach might give rise to criminal charges. For example, if a party enters into a contract with the intent to defraud the other party, this could lead to criminal fraud charges. Other situations could even be considered theft. These charges would be separate from the civil breach of contract claim and would be prosecuted by the state rather than initiated by the aggrieved party. That means you could still file a civil lawsuit for breach of contract independent of the criminal prosecution.

How Are Defendants Punished in Georgia Civil Breach of Contract Cases?

As mentioned, defendants are not punished in a criminal sense when they lose a civil case. Instead, they are usually made to pay monetary damages. However, our Georgia breach of contract lawyers can help you explore other options that might better solve your issues. In some cases, you might want the terms of the contract to be completed or the contract to be undone altogether. The following are typical remedies the court can order defendants to complete in civil contract cases:

Payment of Damages

Damages are the most common remedy in breach of contract cases. “Damages” are monetary compensation designed to put the plaintiff in the position they would have been in had the breach not occurred. However, you can usually claim several forms of damages.

For instance, compensatory damages are given to cover the direct losses and costs incurred by the non-breaching party. This can include lost profits, costs of substitute performance, and other financial losses directly related to the breach.

Consequential damages, on the other hand, compensate for additional losses that are not direct outcomes of the breach but are reasonably foreseeable consequences of the breach when the contract was made. This means that when the contract was made, the defendant could reasonably expect that these damages would occur in the event of their breach.

Liquidated damages are provisions included in some contracts that specify the amount of damages to be paid in the event of a breach. However, these are only enforceable if they are a reasonable estimate of the actual damages and are not punitive in nature.

In cases where a breach occurred but did not result in significant financial loss, nominal damages can be awarded. However, these damages are given to recognize the breach legally without significant compensation. In some cases, defendants are only ordered to pay one dollar in nominal compensation.

Specific Performance

Specific performance is an order from a court that mandates the breaching party to perform a specific act, usually what is stipulated in a contract. It is an equitable remedy that compels the defendant rather than compensating the plaintiff with money, as monetary damages are inadequate to remedy the harm caused by the breach.

In Georgia, there are several conditions that must be fulfilled before a court can grant specific performance.

First, the subject of the contract must be unique. For instance, real estate is a classic example of a unique subject matter, as each parcel of land is inherently distinct from one another.

Also, the performance must be feasible and enforceable without requiring excessive supervision. This implies that the court must have the ability to enforce the order effectively.

Moreover, both parties involved in the contract must be able to request specific performance at the time the contract was made. This is known as “mutuality of remedy.”

Lastly, the party requesting specific performance must come to court with “clean hands,” meaning that they have acted fairly and honestly in all matters related to the contract.

Still, Georgia courts are often cautious in granting this remedy because of its potentially burdensome nature. Additionally, vague or ambiguous contracts might not be suitable for specific performance since the court cannot determine with certainty what was agreed upon.


Rescission is a remedy that aims to bring about fairness and restore the parties involved to the state they were in before the contract was executed. This implies that any benefits conferred under the contract should be returned or, if that is not possible, compensated for.

Rescission can be based on several grounds, each reflecting situations where continuing the contract would result in unfairness or injustice.

Fraud is one of the most common grounds for rescission. If one party has been fraudulently induced into entering into the contract, they can seek rescission upon discovering the fraud.

Another ground for rescission is non-performance. If one party fails to perform their contractual obligations, the other party is entitled to rescind the contract without the opposite party’s consent. For instance, if a contractor fails to complete a construction project as promised, the property owner might seek rescission of the contract.

Rescission can also be granted if there is a mutual mistake regarding a fundamental fact that goes to the essence of the contract. For example, if two parties enter into a contract for the sale of a property, and it later transpires that the property was not owned by the seller at the time of the agreement, the contract can be rescinded on the grounds of the mistake.

Our Georgia Breach of Contract Attorneys Can Help You Find a Solution that Meets Your Needs

Call Howe & Associates at (678) 680-6983 to get a case analysis with our Georgia breach of contract attorneys.