What is Promissory Estoppel in Florida?

In a promissory estoppel situation, there are two parties who essentially acted as though there was a contract.

These situations arise more frequently than you would think according to Business Disputes Attorney Michael Long.

It happens all the time, where one or both parties act like a contract is done and settled before it actually is. In those cases promissory estoppel might be the best legal cause of action for a damaged party.

Business Disputes Attorney Michael Long

Usually, one party is claiming the other party made them a promise and then did not deliver on that promise. Promissory estoppel in Florida is a claim that someone can bring when there are no contract claims available. These types of claims are also known as “detrimental reliance” claims.

In practice, the party seeking relief will bring a promissory estoppel claim because the court has already determined that there are no contract claims available. In other words, the situation is such that the parties have not formed a viable contract.

Promissory estoppel is technically an exception to contract law. There may be good public policy arguments for this type of claim. After all, parties make promises to each other in the real world all the time without fully formed contracts.

If one of the parties acted based on something they expected the other party to do, they might be in a tough situation through no fault of their own.

Elements of Promissory Estoppel in Florida

There are three specific elements of promissory estoppel in Florida:

  • The defendant promised the plaintiff something and should have expected the plaintiff to act or not act based on that promise (called “affirmative representation”);
  • The plaintiff actually relied on the defendant’s promise and did or didn’t do something (called “detrimental reliance”); and
  • Enforcing the promise is necessary to avoid injustice to the plaintiff.

If a plaintiff is able to show these elements to a court of law, they may be successful on their promissory estoppel claim.

Damages Available for Promissory Estoppel in Florida

Usually, in a promissory estoppel case, the court will award the plaintiff reliance damages instead of expectation damages. Expectation damages are those that put the plaintiff in the position they would have been in if the defendant had completed their promise.

For example, imagine the defendant offered the plaintiff a job. The plaintiff then moved to a new state in reliance on that job. Expectation damages might include the salary the plaintiff would have received.

Reliance damages, in contrast, are those that put the plaintiff back in the position they were in before they relied on the promise. In the example above, reliance damages would mean, perhaps, the moving expenses that the plaintiff incurred, but not the salary they were expecting.

Courts mostly award reliance damages for promissory estoppel cases.

Defenses to Promissory Estoppel

The defendant may have several options available to them in a promissory estoppel lawsuit. They may argue that there was an actual contract between the parties. If a contract does exist, then a promissory estoppel claim cannot go forward.

They may also argue that they did not clearly make an affirmative representation to the plaintiff. The defendant could also say that there is no detrimental reliance. Finally, the defendant could argue that there is no injustice, even if they didn’t keep their promise.

Contact an Experienced Contract Attorney in Florida

If you have relied on someone’s false promises, it’s important that you contact a knowledgeable contract attorney. The attorneys at BrewerLong have years of experience in contract law. You will receive professional service and personal attention to help you navigate your promissory estoppel claim. Get in touch with us today.

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