Cumbest v. Harris,

363 So. 2d 294 (Miss. 1978)



Ordinarily, specific performance will not be decreed if the subject matter of the contract sought to be enforced is personalty. However, this general principle is subject to several well recognized exceptions, such as: (1) Where there is no adequate remedy at law; (2) Where the specific articles or property are of peculiar, sentimental or unique value; and (3) Where due to scarcity the chattel is not readily obtainable. These exceptions are partly founded on the principle of the inadequacy of a remedy at law and the remedy may, in a proper case, be allowed where damages are not readily ascertainable. 


The parties entered into a contract for the defendant buyer's purchase of the complainant seller's stereo system. The parties also contracted for the seller's option to repurchase the system by a certain date and time. On the deadline date, the seller made several unsuccessful attempts to locate the defendant to pay the required amount to repurchase the system. The seller finally gave the money to the buyer's landlord on the evening of the deadline date. A week later, the seller filed an action against the buyer for specific performance of the repurchase contract. The trial court dismissed the action. On appeal, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the action for a hearing on the merits.


Is the personal property, which was the subject of the controversy, of such peculiar, sentimental, or unique value as to come within the exception to the general rule barring specific performance involving the property?




Property of a unique value and chattel not readily obtainable presented exceptions to the general rule that specific performance would not be decreed if the subject matter of the contract sought to be enforced was personalty. The court also held that the trial court erred in not finding that the system was sufficiently unique to justify the equitable jurisdiction of a chancery court because the system had a unique value and it was not readily obtainable due to scarcity.

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