1. What Is Specific Performance?
2. When Is Specific Performance Ordered?
3. Plaintiff's Conduct

Updated November 10, 2020:

The format of suit for specific performance of a contract is a particular performance where it goes to court to seek a remedy instead of money. For this to happen, a defendant has to go through with a particular action they promised to do instead of only paying money for not keeping up their end of the promise. The law refers to specific performance as an equitable remedy.

What Is Specific Performance?

In the case that the legal remedy will put the party who's injured in the position they would've enjoyed if the contract was performed fully, the court will use that option instead. The most common reason the court would grant specific performance to someone is that the contract's subject is different and unique, as compared to not just being a matter of money or if it's unclear the amount of damage that was done. By forcing each party to perform what they originally agreed to, justice is achieved instead of giving out damages for a breach of contract.

When the contract is regarding the sale of a property that's unique, money damages alone might not remedy the purchaser's situation. As an example, Rina makes an offer to purchase Beth's house and Beth accepts it but decides after the fact to keep her property. Real estate is a special situation, so the rules are slightly different. There is no other house or property that's exactly like Beth's, so Rina might be able to get specific performance on her contract, meaning Beth is forced to complete the sale.

When Is Specific Performance Ordered?

In some circumstances, a party might file a suit for a particular performance, such as a court's decree that directs the defendant to complete the promise they made. Courts will only enforce certain performances if the contract was equitable and fair to begin with. Some performances may be allowed in certain situations, including the following:

  • If no standards exist for determining actual damage
  • If no exact alternative or substitute is available
  • If the contracts are connected with buildings, land, unique goods, or buildings having a special value to one of the parties

Giving suit for specific performance is solely at the court's discretion, and the party can't demand it as their matter of right. Other items courts agree that support specific performance is custom-made products, works of art, and goods that are in short supply. Almost all states have now adopted the UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code. It states that according to the law in California, specific performance can be compelled if it's found to be an otherwise appropriate remedy and if the counter-performance has been performed or the future performance is guaranteed.

The order for specific performance is mainly left up to the court's discretion. The other requirement makes sure that the plaintiff will or has performed their obligations as the contract states. For example, if Kapil agrees to sell a painting to Ajay for $5,000 and then refuses to sell it, Ajay can file a suit against Kapil since there is no exact substitution for the painting.

Plaintiff's Conduct

A plaintiff looking for specific performance of a contract needs to have contracted in good faith. If a plaintiff has taken advantage of the bargaining power by drafting harsh terms of the contract or acted fraudulently, the plaintiff has violated the doctrine. The court won't provide relief to any party that acts unjustly when it comes to the transaction for which they're seeking help from the court.

An example of a clean hands doctrine is the case of Charles Flowers, who was a college football player that the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants drafted. He signed to play with the Giants in 1959, but according to collegiate rules, a player who signs to play professionally is no longer eligible for future intercollegiate games.

Flowers wanted to play in the Sugar Bowl, so the Giants kept his contract secret, keeping the college, the other team, and general football public in the dark. One of the contract terms was that Flowers' contract wouldn't be submitted until after the Sugar Bowl.

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