Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Liquidated damages

 Liquidated damages by Kalyani

A liquidated damages clause specifies a predetermined amount of money that must be paid as damages for failure to perform under a contract. The amount of the liquidated damages is supposed to be the parties' best estimate at the time they sign the contract of the damages that would be caused by a breach. If a breach occurs and the liquidated damages clause is enforceable, the parties do not calculate the actual damages (i.e., how much money a party actually lost as a result of the breach). Instead, the breaching party pays the predetermined sum provided by the liquidated damages provision.

When Is a Liquidated Damages Clause Enforceable?

To be enforceable, a liquidated damages clause should meet the following criteria.

Damages are difficult to estimate. A court will be more likely to enforce a liquidated damages provision if the damages that will be incurred as a result of a breach of the contract are difficult to estimate when the contract is entered into. In certain situations, injuries are easy to prove. For example, if a breach will result in the loss of sales, it is easy to determine the actual damages by calculating lost profits. Others are more difficult, like the harm caused by breach of a confidentiality agreement or theft of trade secrets. To be enforceable, the damages should be either uncertain or difficult to quantify at the time the contract is entered into.

The amount is reasonable and not a penalty. If the amount of the liquidated damages is grossly disproportionate to the actual harm incurred, a court will likely find it is a penalty or punishment and will not enforce the provision. When making this analysis, courts usually consider what was reasonable at the time the contract was entered into as opposed to when the breach occurred. There have been cases, however, where courts will decide the reasonableness of the damage estimate based on the actual harm at the time of the breach. This actual harm analysis is how the Uniform Commercial Code decides the reasonableness of liquidated damages provisions in contracts for the sale of goods.

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