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Law School Case Brief

Chomicky v. Buttolph - 147 Vt. 128, 513 A.2d 1174 (1986)


The validation of an oral contract to convey real estate in spite of the prohibition against enforcement of the Statute of Frauds depends on the doctrine of partial performance. The doctrine of part performance is invoked to give relief to those who substantially and irretrievably change their position in reliance on the oral agreement. The reliance must be something beyond injury compensable by money to warrant taking the contract outside the statute. 


Edward and Barbara Buttolph owned lakeside property divided by a road. Intending to retain title to the undeveloped back lot and a strip leading to the lake, they offered the front lot and summer cottage for sale. Eugene and Georgianna Chomicky contracted to purchase the property, but the contract was contingent on the sellers obtaining a subdivision permit. The permit application was denied. The Buttolphs advised the Chomickys that the deal was off. They wanted to sell the whole parcel or nothing. The Chomickys sued for specific performance on the oral contract allegedly concluded over the phone, wherein the Buttolphs would retain only an easement to the lake. The Chomickys claimed they gave up other opportunities to acquire lakeside property in reliance on their oral agreement, but they produced no evidence showing that other properties were available or how they were precluded from pursuing them. The Buttolphs appealed from the judgment granting specific performance of an oral agreement to sell property to Chomickys, who cross-appealed from denial of their damage claim.


Were the Chomickys entitled to specific performance of the oral contract to buy the parcel of land?




The court reversed the judgment as to the decree of specific performance and affirmed as to denial of the Chomickys’ claim for damages. The court held that the  dispute was properly resolved under the statute of frauds. The Chomickys, not being entitled to specific performance, were not entitled to an award of damages incident thereto.

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