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Contract Disputes and Property Disputes in Pennsylvania

In the State of Pennsylvania, contract disputes and property disputes are filed with Pennsylvania's Civil Courts. The courts with jurisdiction over these disputes are the Magisterial District Court and the Municipal Courts, otherwise known as the minor courts, and the Court of Common Pleas. The minor courts handle civil claims or actions $12,000 or less in damages while the Court of Common Pleas serves as the trial court and handles civil claims beyond the minor courts' jurisdiction. Under Title 42 Chapter 9, § 932 and § 931(b) of Pennsylvania Statutes, the Court of Common Pleas also has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over cases from the minor courts and in some cases, concurrent jurisdiction. However, not all contract and property disputes are handled by the courts. Some cases are handled out of court by way of arbitration or mediation.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are Contract Disputes in Pennsylvania?

A contract dispute in Pennsylvania refers to a disagreement over the terms or conditions of a contract. Usually, this results in one party seeking damages from the other party and it may occur before or after the formation of the contract.

What are the Most Common Contract Disputes in Pennsylvania

The most common contract dispute that occurs in Pennsylvania is a breach of contract. Other common contract disputes in Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to, disagreements concerning:

  • Sale and purchase of goods or services: This type of dispute occurs between buyers and sellers over the sales or purchases of goods and services
  • Insurance: Insurance disputes occur between insurance companies and individuals/businesses over insurance claims
  • Leases: Lease disputes occur over rented or leased spaces between building owners and company owners
  • Shareholders or partnerships: This refers to managerial disputes involving shareholders and partners of businesses
  • Employment contracts and non-competes: This involves matters stemming from disagreements or violations of terms and conditions stated in employment contracts.
  • Warranties and guarantees: This type of dispute occurs over the implementation of warranties or guarantees
  • Construction contracts: This refers to contract disagreements between construction contractors/workers and their employers
  • Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): NDA disputes arise over the disclosure of confidential information of a company
  • Financial contracts: This type of dispute occurs between lenders and borrowers
  • Consumer contracts: Consumer contracts involve disputes that arise over consumer rights and safety

What is Pennsylvania Contract Law?

Pennsylvania Contract Law refers to official statutes that guide the formation and enforceability of contracts within the states and, in cases of breach, the rights and remedies of aggrieved parties. Title 13 § 1201 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes defines a contract as the total legal obligation that results from an agreement between parties, either in writing or orally. According to state laws, all valid contracts between parties must contain:

  • An offer to do or not do something by one party
  • Acceptance of this offer by another party, and
  • Consideration where something of worth will be exchanged for the offer

What is a Breach of Contract in Pennsylvania?

Generally, a breach of contract occurs when a party fails to meet contractual obligations. Pennsylvania Statutes define 3 conditions under which aggrieved parties may file claims in breaches of contract. These conditions include:

  • A valid and enforceable contract must exist
  • There must be a material breach of duty: Material breaches occur when a party fails to carry out agreed terms or conditions of a contract
  • There must be proof that the breach resulted in damages

What are the Remedies for a Breach of Contract in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure guide how civil courts handle breach of contract claims. Under this law, an aggrieved party has right to the following equitable or monetary remedies:

  • Cancellation: The non-breaching party cancels the contract and all responsibilities under the contract
  • Damages:
    • Compensatory/ consequential damages: A monetary remedy that restores aggrieved parties to the positions they would have been in, had the contract been executed
    • Nominal damages: The minimal monetary compensation awarded to a relieved party in cases where there was no meaningful financial loss
    • Liquidated damages: This initiates liquidation agreements set forth at the formation of a contract as regards to breaches
    • Punitive damages: The breaching party is required to pay in full for the breach
  • Specific performance: Although a breach occurred, the court orders the breaching party to carry out the terms of the contract
  • Rescission: The court declares the contract void and neither party is required to perform any duty
  • Reformation of the contract: The old contract is canceled and a new one is written. This may occur due to a breach of contract defense such as a mutual mistake.

What Defenses Can Be Used Against a Breach of Contract Claim in Pennsylvania?

A breach of contract defense refers to circumstances or events that may release parties from obligations under a contract. These defenses may include:

  • Statute of Frauds
  • Force Majeure
  • Statute of limitations
  • Mutual or unilateral mistake
  • Frustration of purpose
  • The illegality of a contact
  • Unconscionable contract
  • Impossibility or impracticability
  • Lack of capacity to contract
  • Fraudulent persuasion to enter a contract
  • Estoppel

What are Property Disputes in Pennsylvania?

Under Pennsylvania statutes, property disputes are disagreements that occur between individuals/businesses over real estate and personal properties.

What Are Some Common Types of Property Disputes in Pennsylvania?

Some common types of property disputes in Pennsylvania include:

  • Conflicts over the willed or inherited estates
  • Property title disputes
  • Disputes over property lines
  • Buyer and builder conflicts
  • Disputes over rented/leased property
  • Property ownership/ co-ownership conflicts
  • Fraudulent practices

How to Find Property Lines

Property lines refer to the borderlines that mark where one property (land) ends and an adjacent one begins. These property lines can be found on property deeds, property surveys, or through the recorder's or assessor's office in the relevant Pennsylvania county. Most offices provide geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools to interested parties on their official websites. Otherwise, the recorder's or assessor's office may be contacted to request the service.

How do I Find a Property Dispute Lawyer Near me?

Interested parties may find qualified property dispute lawyers near their location through the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service (LRS). Parties may either fill out an online form or call 800-692-7375 on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to make requests. Note that legal services provided by attorneys under the LRS are not free.

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