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Just as a contract must be fairly procured, its enforcement must also not advance injustice or hardship. If enforcement of the contract will be attended with great hardship or manifest injustice, the court will refuse its aid. The decree, if rendered, must operate without injustice or oppression either to plaintiff or to defendant.
The buyers, Carol Kilarjian and Dave de Castro, and the sellers, John Vastola and Joan Vastola, entered into a contract for the sale of real property. The sellers' attorney wrote the buyers' attorney stating that the sellers had elected not to proceed to convey title. The buyers' attorney forwarded a time of the essence letter to the sellers, setting a closing date. The sellers failed to close and were not willing to close on the property. The buyers sued the sellers for performance, arguing that specific performance of the contract was appropriate. The sellers did not dispute the validity of the contract; however, they contended that as a result of the wife's muscular dystrophy and the deterioration of her condition from the time that they entered into the contract, they could no longer sell their house and move. Defendants argued that the wife’s serious health condition, which has become increasingly worse since the time they signed the contract for the sale of the home, should excuse performance of the contract. The buyer filed a motion for summary judgment.
Was specific performance the appropriate remedy in the case at bar?
The court found that, although specific performance was the usual remedy for a breach of a land sale contract where both parties' conduct was fair and just, it was not the appropriate remedy in the case. The court invoked its equitable powers to relieve the sellers from the terms of the contract as they provided the court with significant evidence to prove that enforcement of the contract would cause injustice or oppression to them. However, the buyers were entitled to reimbursement for costs associated with the breach of contract.