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The specific performance of a contract is addressed to the sound discretion of a court of equity, which may grant or deny, as the circumstances of the case warrant. Upon an application for specific performance the court must be satisfied that the claim is fair, reasonable, and just, and in judging of its fairness, the court will look not only at the terms of the contract itself, but at all of the surrounding circumstances, including the relations of the parties. One seeking a specific performance may, upon a proper finding, be relegated to his remedy at law. A decree of specific performance will never be made unless substantial justice is done thereby, but the parties will be left to their remedies at law.
After the parties executed a written agreement for their real estate transaction, the sellers filed a complaint against the buyer seeking recission on the grounds of mutual mistake about the amount of consideration and the buyer counterclaimed for specific performance. The alleged mistake lies in the consideration to be paid for the conveyance of the realty, the sellers alleging that it should have been $12,500 and the buyer alleging it should have been $5,500, as expressed in said agreement.
Should the counterclaim for specific performance be granted?
The court judgment denied relief to both parties and left them in their respective positions prior to their agreement's execution. The court found that the actual value of the property was about twice the price in the agreement. The court found a mutual mistake in the verbal negotiations about the price between the wife of the seller, who had an accent, and the deaf buyer, such that each party believed that it contracted for a different price. The court found that the written agreement drafted by the buyer’s attorney contained a unilateral mistake because the buyer knew the price and the sellers presumed it. The court denied the sellers’ requested relief of rescission because there was no fraud or concealment caused by the buyer. The court dismissed the buyer’s counterclaim because, under the circumstances of the mistake and half price amount of value, specific performance was harsh and unjust.