Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Muldoon v. Lynch case brief

Muldoon v. Lynch case brief summary
6 P. 417 (Cal. 1885)

Appellant purchaser of cemetery monument challenged a judgment of the Superior Court of the city and county of San Francisco (California), which refused to grant a new trial in her contract dispute with respondents, vendor of cemetery monument. The issue on appeal was whether an amount of money named in a contract as a forfeiture was to be regarded as liquidated damages or as a penalty.

The parties entered into a written contract whereby vendor was to complete certain improvements on the cemetery lot of purchaser, which included the erection of a marble monument. The contract provided for installment payments, the balance to be paid upon completion, and a set amount to be paid each day if the completion of the project was delayed beyond one year. The completion was substantially delayed and the vendor claimed that it was entitled to the entire contract amount due plus interest from the date of completion. The purchaser claimed that the agreed daily amount was liquidated damages and was to be deducted from the amount she owed vendor.


  • The court explained that because it appeared that the parties intended the sum named to be a forfeiture or penalty, the purchaser was required to prove damages in order to recover this amount. 
  • The court found that the purchaser made no claim of special damage. 
  • The court held that the sum named was to be regarded as a penalty and that the vendor was entitled to recover the whole of the unpaid balance.
The court affirmed the judgment and order of the lower court.

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