Citation. 186 Mass. 518, 72 N.E. 63, 1904 Mass.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Plaintiff, Young (Plaintiff), sued to recover for the work done and materials supplied pursuant to a contract for the construction of a bridge. The bridge was destroyed by fire before completion and the Plaintiff claims entitlement to the cost of performance, plus the cost of materials not yet used, but destroyed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Where a structure is destroyed before the work on it is completed, the party owning the structure is liable for the work completed up to the destruction.
The Plaintiff entered into a written agreement with the Defendant, City of Chicopee (Defendant), to construct a wooden bridge. As part of the contract, the Plaintiff was not permitted to begin work until the material for at least half of the job was on-site. Therefore, the Plaintiff laid lumber upon the bridge in preparation to perform the job. The bridge was subsequently destroyed by fire and the Plaintiff sued to recover the cost of the lumber not yet used, but placed on the bridge at the time of the fire.
Is the Defendant liable for the work performed by the Plaintiff up to the time of destruction of the bridge?
Yes. The destruction of the bridge excused both parties from future performance, and the Defendant is liable to the Plaintiff for all work done up to the point of destruction. However, the Defendant cannot be liable for materials destroyed that were not yet attached to the structure. The principle behind such a rule is that the Plaintiff could have switched the material for other material up to the time it was actually made part of the bridge. Therefore, the Plaintiff may only recover for the work already performed.
Part performance up to the point of destruction of the structure is all that is compen