frequently possible for equity to compel a defendant to do an act against his will, it is quite out of its power to compel him to do it on a particular day previously appointed.
Finally, it has already been seen that equity will not entertain a bill to prevent a breach even of a negative duty, unless it appear that a breach is actually contemplated by the defendant; and, as a breach of an affirmative duty consists merely of inaction, it is comparatively seldom that an intention to commit a breach of an affirmative duty can be proved.
Upon the whole, therefore, equity never attempts to compel strict performance of affirmative contracts, but contents itself with compelling reparation for breaches of them. This reparation, as we have seen, equity makes specific, so far as possible; namely, by compelling the thing to be done which was agreed to be done, though the time when it was agreed to be done is past. Such a reparation will, however, presumptively be incomplete, for the plaintiff will have been kept out of his right from the time when performance was due to the time when it is actually obtained; and he will therefore be entitled to compensation for that injury. The measure of such compensation, in case of unilateral contracts, will generally be the actual value of the use and enjoyment of the thing due to the plaintiff during the time that he has been deprived of its use and enjoyment. In case of most bilateral contracts, as the plaintiff is not required to perform until the defendant performs, the measure of the plaintiff’s compensation will generally be only the difference, if any, between the benefit that he has derived from the delay in performing his own side of the contract, and the injury that he has suffered from the defendant’s delay in performing his side of the contract. In an action at law this compensation would be given by a jury in the shape of damages; and, as a judge in equity cannot perform the function of a jury in assessing damages, cases may arise in which the plaintiff’s compensation for delay in performing the contract will have to be assessed by a jury. In most cases, however, equity will be able to ascertain the compensation to which the plaintiff is
- Supra, page 127.
- For example, when it is held that the plaintiff is entitled to special damages for the defendant’s delay in performing the contract. For an instance of this, see Cory v. Thames Iron Works and Ship-building Co., 11 W. R. 589, L. R. 3 Q. B. 181. In Jaques v. Millar, 6 Ch. D. 153, special damages, to which the plaintiff was held to be entitled, were assessed by the judge in equity; but this was done under the authority of a statute.