Law School Case Brief
Vickery v. Ritchie - 202 Mass. 247, 88 N.E. 835 (1909)
When labor and materials are furnished and used upon real estate under a special contract, and for reasons which are not prejudicial to a plaintiff the contract becomes of no effect, the party furnishing them may recover upon a quantum meruit for their value as a benefit to the real estate.
Plaintiff contractor brought suit to recover amounts allegedly due for the construction of a building on defendant's land. The parties signed duplicate written contracts covering the work but, as a result of the third-party drafter's fraud, each party's contract contained a different contract price. The contractual discrepancies were not discovered until after the building was substantially completed.
Was plaintiff entitled to recover the reasonable value of the furnished labor and materials in quantum meruit regardless of the ultimate benefit to defendant's property?
The court held that the parties were mistaken in assuming they had made a binding contract. Since there was never a meeting of the minds regarding price, the contractual essence, there was failure of consideration. The court also held that, based on quantum meruit, there was an implied contract on behalf of defendant to pay for the reasonable value of labor and material used on his property at his request and that the ultimate benefit to defendant's property was irrelevant when establishing the value for the materials and labor plaintiff furnished.
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