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Taylor v. Caldwell

    Brief Fact Summary. Taylor (Plaintiff) sued Caldwell (Defendant) for breach of contract to rent out Defendant’s facility for four concert dates.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A party’s duty, under a contract is discharged if performance of the contact involves particular goods, which without fault of either party are destroyed, rendering performance impossible.

    Facts. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract, in which, Defendant agreed to let the Plaintiff use The Surrey Gardens and Music Hall on four certain days. After the signing of the contract, but before the first contract, the concert hall was destroyed by fire. The destruction was without fault of either party and was so extensive that the concerts could not be given.

    Issue. Whether the loss suffered by Plaintiffs, is recoverable from the Defendant?

    Held. No.
    The Defendant was discharged from performing, and his failure to perform was not a breach of the contract. When the contract is absolute, the contractor must perform it or pay damages for nonperformance although in consequence of unforeseen events the performance of the contract has become impossible. However, that occurs only where the contract is absolute. The contract here is subject to an implied condition that the parties shall be excused if performance becomes impossible from the perishing of the thing without fault of the contractor. The parties regarded the continuing existence of the hall as the foundation of the contract, and the contract contained an implied condition that both parties would be excused if the hall did not exist. Therefore, the destruction of the hall without fault of either party excuses both parties, the Plaintiff from taking the gardens and paying the money and the Defendant from performing their promise to give the use of the hall.

    Discussion. This is the case where the doctrine of impossibility through destruction of the subject matter was established in this case.


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