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Law School Case Brief

Wholesale Sand & Gravel v. Decker - 630 A.2d 710 (Me. 1993)

Rule:

An anticipatory repudiation of a contract is a definite and unequivocal manifestation of intention on the part of the repudiator that he will not render the promised performance when the time fixed for it in the contract arrives. The manifestation of an intention to repudiate a contract may be made and communicated by either words or conduct. The words or conduct evidencing such refusal or inability to perform, however, must be definite, unequivocal, and absolute.

Facts:

Plaintiff contractor filed a claim for damages for a breach of the parties’ contract. They had entered into a contract whereby the contractor agreed to perform earth work, including the installation of a gravel driveway, on the landowner's property. However, the contract contained no provision specifying a completion date for the work. Although it found that a reasonable time for the completion of performance was 60 days, the trial court concluded that the contractor's conduct constituted an anticipatory repudiation of the contract, which permitted the landowner to terminate the contract during the 60-day period. Plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Was defendant landowner justified in terminating the driveway installation contract prior to plaintiff contractor's completion of work?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court ruled that the trial court properly found that the contractor, through its conduct, manifested an unequivocal and definite inability or unwillingness to perform within a reasonable time. Because the evidence produced at trial supported the trial court's finding that the contractor's conduct constituted an anticipatory breach of the contract, it did not err in deciding the case on that basis.

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