Contracts II, Pages 945–947

Hochster v. De la Tour

Court of Queen's Bench, 1853

Facts:

Plaintiff, a courier, was engaged to accompany defendant on a tour, but a few weeks before, defendant told plaintiff that he changed his mind and declined plaintiff's services. Plaintiff sued before the date that the tour was supposed to begin.

Defendant's Argument:

Defendant could not have breach the contract before the tour started. If plaintiff did not want to dissolve the contract, he had to remain willing and ready until the date performance was to start.

Procedural History:

The judge entered a nonsuit on defendant's objection, and the jury found for plaintiff.

Issue:

Can an action of breach of contract be brought before the contract was to be performed?

Reasoning:

There is a relationship between contracting parties with an implied promise that neither will prejudice the other against that relationship. Renouncing this relationship is a breach of the implied contract.

It would be irrational to require plaintiff to fully prepare for a three-month tour of Europe that he knows he is not going on. Remaining ready would also prevent him from obtaining replacement employment.

Rule/Holding:

A renunciation of a contract before the date of performance is a breach and can be sued over.

Judgment:

Affirmed.

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