Substantial Performance, Contract Litigation

The traditional rule regarding contracts is that all parties must follow the terms of the contract or agreement precisely. In certain occasions, though, a party may “substantially perfrom” under a contract without being liable for breach of contract. 
In the absence of an express provision in a contract requiring precise, literal compliance, substantial compliance of a contract is sufficient. Gundaker v. Templer, 560 S.W.2d 306, 309 (Mo. Ct. App. 1977). Substantial performance or compliance occurs if the deviation from the contract was slight and if the other party received substantially the same benefit it would have received from literal performance. Id. By way of example, assume there is a contract where you hire a contractor to re-make your stairs with material X. If the contractor instead re-makes the stairs with material Y, and you still receive the same benefit had material X been used, then the contractor may have substantially performed the contract in such a way that there is no breach. Therefore, slight or trivial defects, imperfections, or variations will often not bar a contract action for one who has made an honest endeavor to comply and has substantially done so. McAlpine Co. v. Graham, 320 S.W.2d 951, 954 (Mo. Ct. App. 1959). 
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