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Breach of Contract: Specific Performance Versus Damages

When a breach of contract occurs, the general rule is that, in certain cases, the remedy is either a suit for damages or a suit for specific performance of the contract. Magruder v. Pauley, 411 S.W.3d 323, 331 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013). The suit for damages would provide the non-breaching party with money, whereas the suit for specific performance would compel the breaching party to honor its obligation. To give an example, assume the seller in a contract for the sale of a car breaches the agreement. The purchaser could either sue for money damages equal to the value of the car or for specific performance to compel the seller to transfer title, ownership and possession of the car.

Importantly, suits for equity, such as a claim for specific performance, only exists when money damages would be insufficient. Powell v. Kennedy, 463 S.W.2d 802, 806-07 (Mo. 1971) (“No question can exist as to the right to sue in equity for the specific performance to deliver shares of stock whenever it is shown that the shares contracted for have no market value, or are difficult to obtain elsewhere, or there is some reasonable cause for the delivery of the particular shares arising out of the relation they bear to the control of the corporation. In all such cases the action for damages at law is wholly inadequate, and complete relief can only be had in equity”).

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