Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mitchill v. Lath case brief

Mitchill v. Lath case brief summary
160 N.E. 646 (1928)

Defendant sellers appealed a decision by which the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department (New York) required them to specifically perform under an oral agreement with plaintiff buyer. The sellers asserted that the parol evidence barred enforcement of the oral agreement to remove a structure from property sold to the buyer.

Plaintiff buyer negotiated with defendant sellers to purchase a farm. As a condition to this purchase, defendants agreed to remove an icehouse encumbering the land. The purchase agreement was reduced to writing, yet the oral agreement concerning the removal of the icehouse was ignored. Litigation ensued in which plaintiff attempted to compel performance on the part of defendants. The trial court required specific performance of the oral agreement and the appellate court affirmed this decision.


  • Upon final determination, the court reversed, holding that the presence of a written agreement clearly invoked the parol evidence rule striking the outside oral agreement. 
  • Moreover, the court held that although the oral agreement was collateral in nature, it could have been readily inserted into the more dominating written form. 
  • Accordingly, defendant was not required remove the icehouse.

The Court of Appeals reversed the appellate court on the grounds that plaintiff was not entitled to performance of an oral agreement where the existence of a written contract effectively waived such provisions pursuant to the parole evidence rule.

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