South Carolina law recognizes breach of contract as a valid legal claim creating liability for the breaching party and damages for the non-breaching party. Before there can be a breach, however, a party must establish a valid contract. A contract is created when there has been an offer identifying a “bargained for exchange,” acceptance of that offer, and an exchange or promise to exchange valuable consideration. Sauner v. Public Serv. Auth. of S.C., 581 S.E.2d 161, 166 (S.C. 2003). Once a contract has been created, both parties are bound by their duties thereunder.
Sometimes, however, a party stops performing his or her duties under the contract. He or she may communicate to the other party a desire to stop performing some or all duties or may simply stop performing all together. This is considered a breach of the contract. There can be many reasons for breach, including a disagreement between the parties or external circumstances that interfere with a party’s ability to perform.
The question, then, is what to do when one party stops performing. The first step is to look for an answer in the contract itself—did the parties agree to what happens in this situation? For example, if the non-performance is caused by some external factor out of the parties’ control making it more difficult than anticipated to perform, the contract may include a provision excusing a parties’ non-performance.