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When can you seek “specific performance” in a contract dispute?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2022 | Uncategorized |

Sometimes, when one party fails to fulfill or otherwise breaches a contract, the plaintiff would prefer to get the thing that was promised in the contract rather than compensation for the breach because compensation alone wouldn’t make things right. That’s where “specific performance” comes in.

Most states, including California, have laws regarding specific performance as a remedy in civil litigation. It’s included in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Basically, it’s a court order that requires a person or business to fulfill its contract. 

What situations warrant a specific performance remedy?

While “performance” sounds like it would apply to services, courts cannot generally require someone to perform a service, even if it was contracted. For example, if an architect was contracted to design your company’s new headquarters and then backed out of the deal, you likely couldn’t get a court order requiring them to do the work – and probably wouldn’t want them working under a court order. However, if a collector backed out of their agreement to sell you a coveted sculpture or painting for your lobby, getting that piece of art is the only true remedy. 

Specific performance can also be used in real estate agreements. If you buy a piece of property and the seller backs out of the deal at the last minute, an order of specific performance would require that they sell you the property.

What is required for a court to order this remedy?

To seek specific performance, the following elements are required:

  • There must be a valid, binding contract with mutual obligations by the parties.
  • The plaintiff must have fulfilled or shown that they can fulfill their part of the contract – for example, having the necessary funds available for payment.
  • Monetary damages cannot adequately make things right.

It’s important to note that even if the contract mentions specific performance, a judge doesn’t have to order it.

Specific performance is an element of the law because, in some circumstances, the item promised is so unique and valuable that monetary compensation won’t make up for failure to deliver. Before seeking specific performance in a legal action, it’s important to learn more about it and whether it applies to your situation. Having experienced legal guidance is key.