Curtice Bros. Co. v. Catts

72 N.J. Eq. 831, 66 A. 935 (1907)



Where no adequate remedy at law exists, specific performance of a contract by defendants will be decreed on their refusal to sell tomatoes grown on certain land, as agreed, where it leaves the company helpless, except to whatever extent an uncertain market may supply the deficiency.


Complainant is engaged in the business of canning tomatoes and seeks the specific performance of a contract wherein defendant agreed to sell to complainant the entire product of certain land planted with tomatoes. Defendant contests the power of this court to grant equitable relief.


Does the court have authority to grant the relief sought in order to enforce a valid contract?




The condition which arises from the breach of the contracts is not merely a question of the factory being compelled to pay a higher price for the product; losses sustained in that manner could, with some degree of accuracy, be estimated. The condition which occasions the irreparable injury by reason of the breaches of the contracts is the inability to procure at any price at the time needed and of the quality needed the necessary tomatoes to insure the successful operation of the plant. If it should be assumed as a fact that upon the breach of contracts of this nature other tomatoes of like quality and quantity could be procured in the open market without serious interference with the economic arrangements of the plant, a court of equity would hesitate to assume to interfere, but the very existence of such contracts proclaims their necessity to the economic management of the factory. The aspect of the situation bears no resemblance to that of an ordinary contract for the sale of merchandise in the course of an ordinary business. The business and its needs are extraordinary in that the maintenance of all of the conditions prearranged to secure the pack are a necessity to insure the successful operation of the plant. The breach of the contract by one planter differs but in degree from a breach by all.

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