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The constant tendency of the courts is to find some way in which damages can be awarded where a wrong has been done. Difficulty of ascertainment is not to be confused with right of recovery. Nor does it exonerate the defendant that his misconduct, which has made necessary the inquiry into the question of harm, renders that inquiry difficult. The defendant who has wrongfully broken a contract should not be permitted to reap advantage from his own wrong by insisting on proof which by reason of his breach is unobtainable. It remains true, however, that the plaintiff must meet a higher standard of proof to establish that he has sustained some injury than to fix the amount.
Plaintiff contractor Harvey Ward Locke was the owner of a typewriter-repair company doing business variously under the names Ward's Typewriter Repair and Allied Typewriter Company. As Ward's Typewriter Repair of San Diego, California, plaintiff was awarded GSA Federal Supply Schedule Contract GS-09S-1329. Said contract covered the repair, maintenance and reconditioning of manual typewriters in the San Diego area for the period July 1, 1955, through June 30, 1956. These contracts provided that upon an acceptable bid and a showing of responsibility, the contractor's name, address, and telephone number would be placed in a Federal Supply Schedule which was widely distributed to Government installations in the area. Plaintiff operated under his contract for several months and received some business from the Government. But on February 2, 1956, the Government's contracting officer terminated the contract for default and plaintiff's name was stricken from the schedule. Plaintiff filed an appeal with the Board of Review, General Services Administration, and following a full hearing, the board held that the contract was terminated without proper cause but denied his claim for compensation for lost profits and alleged defamation of character and loss of other business. As such, plaintiff filed his appeal to this court. Plaintiff sued defendant United States for lost profits resulting from an alleged breach of a requirements contract covering repair of typewriters, and for damages allegedly resulted from defendant's improper refusal to accept a bid on another typewriter repair contract. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff claimed that the first contract was terminated for default without proper cause, and that it was improperly denied an opportunity to bid on the second contract. Defendant claimed that no damage had resulted to plaintiff, because under a requirements contract, no minimum requirement was guaranteed. Defendant then moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted.
Was plaintiff entitled to any compensable damage as a direct result of the defendant's improper termination of plaintiff's contract?
Both parties' motions for summary judgment were denied on the first contract, as the court found that the issue necessitated further determinations by the trial commissioner to determine plaintiff's damages. With respect to the second contract, however, the court found that the alleged injuries were too remote to warrant an award of compensation to plaintiff. The court ruled that there was ample evidence to justify the contracting officer's refusal of plaintiff's bid on that contract. Hence, defendant’s motion for summary judgment concerning the second contract was granted.