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Law School Case Brief

Fortner v. Wilson - 1950 OK 71, 202 Okla. 563, 216 P.2d 299

Rule:

While statutes in some jurisdictions authorize specific performance of contracts for the sale of personal property, in accordance with the general rules, specific performance of a contract for the sale of personal property will not ordinarily be granted because there is an adequate remedy at law, as in an action for damages for breach of contract. So a contract to convey chattels having a market value cannot be specifically enforced, unless damages in lieu thereof would be inadequate; and a court of equity therefore will not, unless there is some specific reason, specifically enforce a contract for the sale of ordinary articles of commerce, which can at all times be bought in the market, such as barroom fixtures, cattle, coal, corn, cotton, logs or lumber, pianos, sauerkraut, whisky, used cars, or an existing business and stock in trade, since the remedy at law for a breach of such contract is regarded as complete and adequate. Moreover, an agreement to pay for an article in the products thereof will not generally be specifically enforced, but the remedy is by an action at law to recover the price in money. 

Facts:

Two parties entered into a contract whereby the buyer agreed to purchase an automobile from the seller. The buyer alleged that he was able, willing, and ready to receive and pay for the new car, but that the seller refused to perform his part of the contract. The buyer filed an action for specific performance for the sale and purchase of an automobile. The district court entered judgment in favor of the buyer. The seller appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it ordered it to specifically perform under the contract due to the fact that equity did not enforce a contract for the purchase of an automobile, because the buyer's remedy at law was adequate. 

Issue:

Was the buyer entitled to specific performance from the seller to sell the buyer an automobile?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court reversed the trial court's decision with directions to enter judgment for the seller. The court held that the trial court erred when it ordered the seller to specifically perform under the contract because the car being sold was an article that could be obtained, by paying an additional amount of money, in the open market. Furthermore, the court held there was nothing unique in any way about the car that would have caused it to come under the exceptions to the rule that specific performance would not be granted as to personal property. In conclusion, the court held that the buyer had an adequate remedy at law, and, such being the case, that specific performance was not appropriate.

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