The remedy of specific performance for breach of contract

Damages are not always sufficient in a lawsuit for breach of contract, but there are other remedies the court may consider.

If the agreement concerns something unique, specific performance may resolve the contract dispute.

A little background

Breach of contract occurs when one party to an agreement fails to fulfill contractual obligations. There are ways to settle a breach of contract outside of court, such as mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution. However, the matter may go to litigation if parties cannot resolve their difficulties. Under certain conditions, the plaintiff may look for relief through a remedy known as specific performance.

What this means

The court may order the breaching party to execute specific performance of duty if the agreement is fair and equitable, as long as the agreement speaks to something unique. For example, let us say that George offered to purchase Fred’s home because of its location on the Intracoastal Waterway and the fact that it has a dock. Fred agreed and signed a contract, but then changed his mind and decided not to sell. The court views real estate as unique. Fred’s home is unlike any other along the waterway, and he has the only dock that will accommodate George’s large yacht.

A word about “replevin”

In such a case, the court might invoke a legal action called replevin, or “claim and delivery.” What this means is that to settle a dispute, the court may order that the actual property transfer to the plaintiff.

Exploring options

If you are the non-breaching party in a contract dispute, look into your legal options. Payment of damages is the remedy most often used in resolving a breach of contract. This may involve money but often requires returning the injured party to the position or state he or she would have enjoyed had the breach not happened. Specific performance is an alternative remedy if the payment of damages is not an adequate solution but the decision relies on the discretion of the court.


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