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Law School Case Brief

Bettancourt v. Gilroy Theatre Co - 120 Cal. App. 2d 364, 261 P.2d 351 (1953)


The law leans against the destruction of contracts because of uncertainty and favors an interpretation which will carry into effect the reasonable intention of the parties if it can be ascertained. The description of the subject matter of an agreement may be indefinite but if it is capable of being identified and rendered definite and certain by evidence aliunde, the contract is enforceable. That is certain which can be made certain.  Cal. Civ. Code § 3538.


Plaintiff sellers filed an action against the defendant buyer for damages for failure of defendant to perform an alleged contract to build a “first class” theatre on certain property. The superior court entered a judgment of nonsuit, and plaintiffs appealed.


Is the contract between the parties sufficient to establish the obligations of the defendant?




The court held that the expression "first-class theatre" for the exhibition of motion pictures was sufficiently definite and certain to enable defendant to know what it had undertaken to do and, if defendant had built a theater, for a court to determine whether or not it represented a fair and reasonable performance of the contract. The court also expressed that a writing satisfied the requirements of Cal. Civ. Code § 1624 in that it contained the essential terms of the contract.

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