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Dove v. Rose Acre Farms, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. Mark Dove (Plaintiff) appeals from a judgment of the Decatur Circuit Court in favor of Rose Acre Farms (Defendant) in a trial before the court without a jury. Plaintiff appealed from a judgment denying him recovery.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Terms of a contract, which are clear and understood by all the parties must be enforced, even if such enforcement results in a total forfeiture by the party who does not strictly comply with all the terms of the contract.

    Facts. Plaintiff had been employed by the Defendant, a company in the production of eggs, who used incentive programs. A condition of these bonus programs was that during the period of bonuses, employees must not be tardy for even a minute or miss work for any cause even illness. Any missed work could be made up within the same week, for example on Saturdays or Sundays. Plaintiff volunteered for these programs with knowledge of the consequences of not fulfilling the conditions. Plaintiff also said that there was no ambiguity in the agreement and he understood the requirements. Plaintiff worked for nine and a half weeks and three days before his performance would have been complete he became ill and had to leave work. Defendant refused to give the Plaintiff the bonus based solely upon his missing the two days of work. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s recovery and stated that Plaintiff had not shown that all of the conditions of the bonus contract had been met.

    Issue. Whether the Plaintiff performed the conditions of the contract?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
    The terms of the contract were clear and understood by the parties and must be enforced, even if such enforcement results in the forfeiture by the party who does not strictly comply with all terms of the contract. If it is a promise then substantial performance satisfies but if it is an express condition strict compliance with term is not substantial performance.
    In the instant case, it was an express condition precedent to the Defendant’s duty to pay that Plaintiff satisfies the requirements of the bonus agreement. Plaintiff argues that performance was impossible, however impossibility can only be used defensively, not offensively. Therefore, Plaintiff voluntarily participated in this program and said that he understood the requirements of the bonus program. If Plaintiff had disdain for the program, the Plaintiff could have declined to participate.
    The purpose of the bonus program was to discourage tardiness and absenteeism and to promote motivation and dependability. No fraud or bad faith has been shown on the part of the Defendant and no public policy arguments were advanced to demonstrate why the bonus contract should not be enforced.
    Therefore, Plaintiff failed to perform the conditions of the contract and is not entitled to recover any portion of the bonus.

    Discussion. Strict compliance with an express condition is ordinarily necessary. However, courts often avoid applying strict compliance where forfeiture would result. This occurs when one party has relied on the bargain and insistence on strict compliance with the condition and this would cause him to fail to receive the expected benefits from the deal.


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