Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tompkins v. Dudley case brief

Tompkins v. Dudley case brief summary
25 N.Y. 272 (1862)

Plaintiff trustees challenged a decision from the Supreme Court at General Term in the Seventh District (New York), which affirmed a judgment entered in favor of defendant builders in the trustees' breach of contract action.

The trustees contracted with the builders to erect a new school. The contract specified that the work would have been completed on a certain date. The work was unfinished on the date in question. Several days later, the building was destroyed by fire. The trustees brought an action against the builders to recover the money expended and the damages suffered due to non-completion of the contract. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's judgment in favor of the builders. The lower court determined that the builders had substantially completed the contract.


  • On appeal, the court reversed the case and ordered a new trial. 
  • The court determined that the builders had not substantially performed the contract because the work was incomplete and the building was in the builders' possession. 
  • The contract did not vest any property in the trustees until the work was completed and delivered. 
  • The court held that the builders were liable for nonperformance, despite the fact that an inevitable accident occurred. 
  • The builders should have provided a clause in the contract to cover such emergencies. 
  • Therefore, the builders were not excused by the fire.

The court reversed the judgment in favor of the builders in the trustees' breach of contract action. A new trial was ordered.

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