Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Whether a breach is material is usually left to the trier of fact to determine from all the facts and circumstances shown in evidence. The defendant's mental state can be among those circumstances. So can the timing of the breach.
In the third round of litigation relating to a proposed land development, the buyer sued the seller for breach of the contract to purchase the property. Following a bench trial, the developer was awarded a money judgment for $2,855,431 plus costs and attorney fees. The seller challenged the decision.
Was the evidence sufficient to award money judgment in favor of the developer?
The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, holding that the evidence supported findings that the seller's egregious breach of the contract was animated by egregious bad faith and that the buyer suffered damages in the amount awarded. Substantial evidence supported a finding that the owner permitted waste by authorizing the digging of a trench that was approximately four feet wide, 200 feet long, and that encroached into a protected wetlands area, resulting in an abatement order and remediation plan. The owner's unilateral action effectively put a cloud on the property as to what could be done with it until the Regional Water Quality Control Board released its hold. The evidence also showed other efforts to sabotage the contract, including refusal to pay taxes on the property for 13 years or to assist in securing lot line adjustments, negotiating another sale, and offering to give the property to the city. The award of $2,855,431 properly included damages for the costs of extensive interaction with local government over 15 years when the buyer had not taken formal possession. Those costs were foreseeable by the seller in the event of his breach and thus were expenses properly incurred in preparing to enter upon the land and consequential damages.