When you create a contract with someone, you’re trusting that they will come through and perform their side of the bargain. When they fail to do so, it can create extensive hardship on your end as you struggle to compensate for the damage that their breach caused. Sometimes money just isn’t enough to make things right. You may be wondering if you can bring a lawsuit and have the court compel them to uphold their contractual obligations.
What is specific performance?
The remedy of specific performance is when the court obligates the breaching party to perform as they originally contracted to do. It’s an alternative to an award of money damages.
When a party breaches a contract, courts most often order that party to pay money damages in restitution to the other party. This is because the aim of the court is to put the non-breaching party as closely as possible to the same situation that they would be in if the breaching party had fulfilled their end of the deal.
But sometimes money is an inadequate compensation. For example, if someone contracted to sell you a piece of land, and later reneged on that contract, you would still be out a unique piece of land even if they gave you your money back. The only equitable remedy would be for the court to grant you specific performance by forcing the sale of that specific land.
When do courts award specific performance?
Courts most often grant specific performance when the contract involved the sale of unique and irreplaceable goods or land. They can also grant it when the true dollar amount of damages is not obvious or easy to calculate.
Courts will almost never award specific performance for service contracts. This is in everyone’s best interest. It would be a nightmare to enforce a court order to perform a service. Besides, you wouldn’t want someone performing a service for you who was being forced into it by the court. Breaches of service contracts are practically always best compensated for with money damages.
If you are considering bringing a breach of contract claim, you should consult an experienced contract dispute attorney. They will be able to help you to decide whether specific performance is the right choice in your particular situation.