Contracts II, Pages 976–979

Taylor v. Caldwell

Court of King's Bench, 1863

Facts:

Defendants contracted to allow plaintiffs to use their gardens and music hall for a series of "concerts" (big parties), but between the formation of the contract and the first night of the concert, the music hall burned down without the fault of either party.

Issue:

Is a party still liable for breach of contract when it is no longer possible to perform the contract?

Reasoning:

It was a basic assumption that the concert hall would exist on the date of performance, and if they thought of such a thing happening, they would have made their contract conditional on it not.

A contract is not breached if a party dies before its performance, and the survivor cannot sue the deceased's estate for the damages. A painter is not liable for damages if he is struck blind before completing a job. Likewise, a person should not be liable if a property that is the subject of a contract perishes before the time of performance, such as a horse dying before its sale.

Rule/Holding:

Page 979, Paragraph 3

[I]n contracts in which the performance depends on the continued existence of a given person or thing, a condition is implied that the impossibility of performance arising from the perishing of the person or thing shall excuse the performance.

Judgment:

Verdict for defendant.

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