California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

303. Breach of Contract—Essential Factual Elements


To recover damages from [name of defendant] for breach of contract, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of plaintiff] and [name of defendant] entered into a contract;

2. That [name of plaintiff] did all, or substantially all, of the significant things that the contract required [him/her/it] to do [or that [he/she/it] was excused from doing those things];

[3. That all conditions required by the contract for [name of defendant]’s performance [had occurred/ [or] were excused];]

[4. That [name of defendant] failed to do something that the contract required [him/her/it] to do; and]

[or]

[4. That [name of defendant] did something that the contract prohibited [him/her/it] from doing; and]

5. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed by that failure.


New September 2003; Revised April 2004, June 2006, December 2010, June 2011

Directions for Use

Read this instruction in conjunction with CACI No. 300, Breach of Contract—Introduction.

Element 3 is needed if conditions for performance are at issue. For reasons that the occurrence of a condition may have been excused, see the Restatement Second of Contracts, section 225, Comment b. See also CACI No. 321, Existence of Condition Precedent Disputed, CACI No. 322, Occurrence of Agreed Condition Precedent, and CACI No. 323, Waiver of Condition Precedent.

Equitable remedies are also available for breach. “As a general proposition, ‘[t]he jury trial is a matter of right in a civil action at law, but not in equity. [Citations.]’ ” (C & K Engineering Contractors v. Amber Steel Co., Inc. (1978) 23 Cal.3d 1, 8 [151 Cal.Rptr. 323, 587 P.2d 1136]; Selby Constructors v. McCarthy (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 517, 524 [154 Cal.Rptr. 164].) However, juries may render advisory verdicts on these issues. (Raedeke v. Gibraltar Savings & Loan Assn. (1974) 10 Cal.3d 665, 670–671 [111 Cal.Rptr. 693, 517 P.2d 1157].)

Sources and Authority

  • Civil Code section 1549 provides: “A contract is an agreement to do or not to do a certain thing.” Courts have defined the term as follows: “A contract is a voluntary and lawful agreement, by competent parties, for a good consideration, to do or not to do a specified thing.” (Robinson v. Magee (1858) 9 Cal. 81, 83.)
  • A complaint for breach of contract must include the following: (1) the existence of a contract, (2) plaintiff’s performance or excuse for non-performance, (3) defendant’s breach, and (4) damages to plaintiff therefrom. (Acoustics, Inc. v. Trepte Construction Co. (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 887, 913 [92 Cal.Rptr. 723].) Additionally, if the defendant’s duty to perform under the contract is conditioned on the happening of some event, the plaintiff must prove that the event transpired. (Consolidated World Investments, Inc. v. Lido Preferred Ltd. (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 373, 380 [11 Cal.Rptr.2d 524].)
  • “Implicit in the element of damage is that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s damage.” (Troyk v. Farmers Group, Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 1305, 1352 [90 Cal.Rptr.3d 589], original italics.)
  • “It is elementary a plaintiff suing for breach of contract must prove it has performed all conditions on its part or that it was excused from performance. Similarly, where defendant’s duty to perform under the contract is conditioned on the happening of some event, the plaintiff must prove the event transpired.” (Consolidated World Investments, Inc., supra, 9 Cal.App.4th at p. 380, internal citation omitted.)
  • “When a party’s failure to perform a contractual obligation constitutes a material breach of the contract, the other party may be discharged from its duty to perform under the contract. Normally the question of whether a breach of an obligation is a material breach, so as to excuse performance by the other party, is a question of fact. Whether a partial breach of a contract is material depends on ‘the importance or seriousness thereof and the probability of the injured party getting substantial performance.’ ‘A material breach of one aspect of a contract generally constitutes a material breach of the whole contract.’ ” (Brown v. Grimes (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 265, 277–278 [120 Cal.Rptr.3d 893], internal citations omitted.)

  • “The wrongful, i.e., the unjustified or unexcused, failure to perform a contract is a breach. Where the nonperformance is legally justified, or excused, there may be a failure of consideration, but not a breach.” (1 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Contracts, § 847, original italics, internal citations omitted.) “Ordinarily, a breach is the result of an intentional act, but negligent performance may also constitute a breach, giving rise to alternative contract and tort actions.” (Ibid., original italics.)

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Contracts, § 847

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)

2 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 22, Suing or Defending Action for Breach of Contract, 22.03–22.50