Hochster v De La Tour

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Hochster v De La Tour
Court Queen’s Bench
Citation 2 E. & B. 678, 118 Eng. Rep. 922 [1853]
Date decided June 25, 1853

Facts

  • Hochster = plaintiff = a courier
  • De la Tour = defendant = employer


  • In April 1852, Hochster contracted with De la Tour to accompany him on a trip to commence on June 1, 1852.
  • On May 11th the defendant wrote to the plaintiff that he changed his mind, and declined his services, refusing to make him any compensation.
  • Hochster filed the action on May 22nd and then before the action proceeded the Hochster agreed with another man to accompany him on a trip on June 1st.

Procedural History

Hochster filed suit for breach of contract, and De La Tour objected that he could not have breached the contract until June 1st.

Issues

  1. Whether one who wrongfully renounces a contract into which he had deliberately entered into can justifiably complain if he is immediately sued for compensation in damages when the date of “violation” has not yet come.
  2. Whether one who knows of breach of the other party must remain ready and willing to fulfill his part of the contract.


==

Can a party to a contract sue the other party for a breach that hasn't happened yet, but which appears to be inevitable?

Arguments

De La Tour also claimed that Hochster should have remained ready & willing to enter into the contract if he was not contented to dissolve the contract.

Holding

Yes. If a party to a contract informs the other party of an intent to breach, the first party may file suit immediately.

Judgment

Affirmed

Reasons

  1. If a party has rendered it impossible to perform his end of the contract before the day comes which he is to perform, his is instantly liable for breach.
  2. It is reasonable after the renunciation of an agreement by the other party to consider yourself resolved from any future performance of it, thus retaining the right to sue for damages suffered by the breach.

Rule

Lord Chief Justice Baron John Campbell: Total impossibility isn't necessary before the injured party can sue for anticipatory breach.

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