Crabby's, Inc. v. Hamilton

244 S.W.3d 209 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008)

 

RULE:

A seller's measure of damages for a buyer's breach of a contract for the sale of land with a structure on it is the difference between the purchase price and the fair market value of the property on the date of breach. That is, the measure of damages is the difference between the contract price and the fair market value of the property on the date the sale should have been completed. An essential element of the seller's case is proof of market value, and if he does resell within a reasonable time after the breach, the price obtained is some evidence of market value. Conflicts in the evidence concerning real estate values are for resolution by the fact finder. It is sufficient if the value set by the fact finder is "within the range" of the evidence.

FACTS:

Plaintiff seller sued for breach of contract when defendant buyers failed to appear at closing, seeking the difference between the sale price with the buyers and the price they obtained in a subsequent sale that occurred eleven and a half months after the breach. After a trial to the court, the Circuit Court entered judgment in favor of the seller. On appeal, the buyers claimed that the contract terminated when they did not furnish the seller with a copy of a written loan commitment within 30 days of the contract. The seller countered that the buyers, by their conduct after entering into the contract, waived the financing contingency provision. The court agreed and affirmed the trial court's judgment.

ISSUE:

Is the trial court's determination of fair market value supported by substantial evidence?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

After the 30-day deadline, the buyers agreed to extend the closing date, accepted a set-off for repairs, entered an assignment of the contract to the second buyer, arranged for early possession, accepted a key, and switched the utilities to the property to their names.  The trial court's determination of the fair market value was supported by substantial evidence. It was not unreasonable to use the price obtained at the sale that occurred 11 and 1/2 months after the breach. The buyers failed to show that the seller was at that time compelled to sell. Buyers fail to cite to any authority for the proposition that a sale in which the seller is highly motivated or badly wants to sell, as opposed to being compelled to sell, eliminates that sale from being considered as a fair market value sale of the property.

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