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Law School Case Brief

Warner v. McLay - 92 Conn. 427, 103 A. 113 (1918)

Rule:

In an action upon a construction contract, the contractor has the right to recover such sum in damages as he would have realized in profits if the contract had been fully performed. To ascertain such sum, it is necessary to find the cost and expense of the work and materials necessary to complete the contract. Such sum, deducted from the contract price, gives a balance, which would be the profit that would have accrued to the contractor out of the contract, if it had been fulfilled. Such sum the contractor has a right to receive in addition to his expenditures for work and labor supplied toward the completion of the contract. 

Facts:

Plaintiff filed an action against defendant to recover damages for defendant's refusal to permit plaintiff to carry out his agreement for the construction of a garage, pursuant to a contract between the parties. Plaintiff recovered damages for defendant's alleged breach of the parties' construction contract. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by improperly instructing the jury as to the question of profits and the burden of proof in construction contract cases.

Issue:

Did the trial court commit reversible error by improperly instructing the jury as to the question of profits and the burden of proof in construction contract cases?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

On appeal, the Court found error in the trial court's judgment, which was entered in favor of plaintiff, and thereafter reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial. The Court found that plaintiff had the right to recover such sum in damages as he would have realized in profits if the contract had been fully performed, which sum was found by deducting from the contract price the cost and expense of the work and materials necessary to complete the contract. The Court determined that the resulting sum was the profit that would have accrued to plaintiff out of the contract, if it had been fulfilled, which plaintiff had a right to receive, in addition to his expenditures for work and labor supplied toward the completion of the contract. The Court concluded that testimony offered by defendant as to an assignment by plaintiff of the claim at issue was properly rejected, and the evidence of a subcontractor was plainly admissible to sustain plaintiff's allegations and claim as to work and material furnished in part performance of the contract.

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