Property II, Pages 679–682

Hickey v. Green

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, 1982

Facts:

Defendant owned a lot and advertised it for sale. Plaintiffs discussed purchasing it and orally agreed to so do for $15,000. Defendant accepted a $500 deposit check, although the recipient had been left blank because plaintiff did not know who to make it out to. Defendant kept the check but did not fill in the payee's name, endorse it, or cash. Plaintiff told defendant that he intended to sell his home and build on defendant's lot. Relying on the arrangements with defendant, plaintiffs advertised and agreed to sell their house and took a $500 deposit check. Defendant then told plaintiff that she no longer intended to sell her property to him—instead selling it to another for $16,000. Plaintiff explained that he already sold his house and offered to pay $16,000, but she refused. Plaintiffs then sued seeking specific performance.

Procedural History:

Trial judge granted specific performance.

Issue:

Was the agreement binding due to reliance despite the statute of frauds's writing requirement?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 680, Paragraph 2

A contract for the transfer of an interest in land may be specifically enforced notwithstanding failure to comply with the Statute of Frauds if it is established that the party seeking enforcement, in reasonable reliance on the contract and on the continuing assent of the party against whom enforcement is sought, has so changed his position that injustice can be avoided only by specific enforcement"

Reasoning:

Defendant knew that plaintiffs were planning to sell their home in reliance on defendant. They did so quickly without obtaining an adequate memorandum for buying defendant's lot, but they did give an acceptable writing in their own sale. Defendant did promptly repudiate it, but not promptly enough.

Holding:

If plaintiffs are obligated to sell their house, defendant is obligated to sell hers? Remanded to amend.

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