Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/371

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and selling and for exchanging one thing for another, if a compensation in money be an inadequate remedy for a breach of them; but it will not assume jurisdiction, e.g., over contracts for services or building contracts. In what cases, then, will equity deem a compensation in money an inadequate remedy for the breach of a contract which consists in giving? Here again a distinction must be taken between those contracts which consist in giving something which is specified and identified by the contract, and those which consist in giving something of the kind, quality, or description specified in the contract. In cases belonging to the second class, it seems that a compensation in money will always be an adequate remedy for a breach of the contract; for the thing contracted for cannot be worth more to any one than the sum of money for which it can be purchased in the market, and that sum will be the measure of the compensation which a jury will give for a breach of the contract. It cannot, therefore, be very material to the person who has contracted for the thing whether he receive the thing itself or a sum of money with which he can purchase the thing.[1] In cases belonging to the first class, on the other hand, there is but one thing in existence which will satisfy the contract. If, therefore, that one thing has a value in the eyes of the person who contracted for it, which cannot be measured by money, or a greater money value than it can properly have in the eyes of a jury, it is clear that a compensation in money will not be an adequate substitute


cannot construct the works himself; thirdly, an English railway company is more amenable to the authority of a court of equity than is an ordinary private individual.

Another exception (founded however upon very different reasons) is where an informal agreement is made to enter into a formal contract. Although the informal agreement, in such a case, consists in doing, yet it is as easily enforced as any contract which consists in giving; for all that the defendant is required to do is to sign (or sign and seal) and deliver the formal contract, when the latter has been drawn up (under the direction of a Master, if necessary) in conformity with the informal agreement. Whenever, therefore, damages will not be an adequate remedy for a breach of the informal agreement, equity will compel an execution of the formal contract. Accordingly, an informal agreement to insure (i.e., to issue a policy of insurance) will be enforced in equity; for, if the insured should bring an action at law, he would recover only nominal damages. It is possible, indeed, that the insured might recover for a loss in an action at law without a policy; but, even if he could, the loss would constitute a separate and distinct cause of action, and would not affect the right of the insured to have a policy.

  1. The English courts have, however, made one extraordinary exception to the rule that such contracts will not be enforced in equity, namely, in the case of contracts for the purchase and sale of shares in companies. This exception was first established by the case of Duncuft v. Albrecht, 12 Sim. 189. That case has not generally been followed, however, in this country.