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Plante v. Jacobs

Citation. 10 Wis. 2d 567, 103 N.W.2d 296, 1960 Wisc.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Plaintiff, Eugene Plante (Plaintiff), agreed to build a house for the Defendants, Frank and Carol Jacobs (Defendants). Disputes arose during construction and the house was never finished.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

There can be no recovery on a contract unless there is substantial performance.


The Defendants contracted with the Plaintiff to build them a new house in accordance with plans and specifications. The Plaintiff was paid $20,000 during the course of construction. When disputes between the parties arose, the Defendants refused further payment and the Plaintiff ceased building the house. The Plaintiff thereafter sued to establish a lien on the property.


Did the Plaintiff substantially perform, thereby entitling him to recovery?


Yes. There can be no recovery on a contract unless there is substantial performance. “Substantial performance as applied to construction of a house does not mean that every detail must be in strict compliance with the specifications and the plans.” Unless all details are made part of the contract, something less than perfection is the test of substantial performance. Here, there were no specific details included in the contract. Rather, the plan was a stock floor plan. There were no blueprints. Even though the Defendants were not satisfied with the house, the contract was substantially performed. Damages equal the contract price less the damages caused to the Defendants by incomplete performance.


A party must substantially perform his duties under a contract to recover for damages under the contract.

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