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Law School Case Brief

Jacob & Youngs, Inc. v. Kent - 230 N.Y. 239, 129 N.E. 889 (1921)


The courts never say that one who makes a contract fills the measure of his duty by less than full performance. They do say, however, that an omission, both trivial and innocent, will sometimes be atoned for by allowance of the resulting damage, and will not always be the breach of a condition to be followed by a forfeiture. The distinction is akin to that between dependent and independent promises, or between promises and conditions.


Plaintiff was under contract with defendant to build a home using a specific type of pipe for all of the plumbing. Plaintiff did not use the pipe that was specified, but defendant did not complain about defective performance until the pipe was almost completely encased in the walls of the home. To replace the pipe, plaintiff would have had to tear down substantial parts of the completed structure. The plaintiff did not replace the pipe, and sought final payment. The trial court found in favor of defendant, and the appellate court reversed. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of New York.


Was the plaintiff entitled to payment for this labor?




The Court held that plaintiff's omission of the specified pipe was neither fraudulent nor willful, and the plaintiff was ready to present evidence proving that the pipe used was essentially identical to the specified pipe. Thus, plaintiff was due payment for substantial performance with compensation for the trivial defect.

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