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Law School Case Brief

Scott v. Shepherd - 8 Ill. 483 (1846)

Rule:

A party can not compel the specific performance of a contract in a court of equity, unless he shows that he himself has specifically performed or can justly account for the reason of his non-performance. 

Facts:

Scott filed a bill of complaint against the defendant Shepherd and wife, for a specific performance. Scott alleged that Shepherd and wife agreed to make him a warranty deed for a certain tract of land, provided he (Scott) would first pay to Shepherd the sum of $275, which might be done by paying outstanding debts against Shepherd, that he (Scott) did make payments to Shepherd, and also paid outstanding claims, amounting together to more than the purchase money, and that the defendants have refused to make the deed according to agreement. The complainant also alleged the insolvency of the Shepherd. The jury found that the buyer paid less than the sum due on the land sale contract. The trial court dismissed the bill, and Scott appealed.

Issue:

Was dismissal of the bill proper?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the bill was properly dismissed by the circuit court. The court explained that, while it appeared that equity was on the buyer's side, the buyer was not able to compel specific performance because he did not show that he himself had specifically performed. The court further explained that the buyer was not entitled to have the indebtedness to him owed by Shepherd treated as payment of the purchase price because he failed to lay a foundation in his bill for application of such a principle. The court affirmed the decree.

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