Equitable Remedies Cases | Equitable Remedy Case Summaries

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Cases On Equitable Remedies

Specific Performance

Nutbrown v Thornton (1804) 10 Ves 159

Specific performance was ordered of a contract to supply machinery which

could not be readily obtained elsewhere.

Cohen v Roche [1927] 1 KB 169

The court refused specific performance to a buyer of a set of Hepplewhite

chairs saying that they were ‘ordinary articles of commerce and of no special

value or interest’. Note: the buyer was contracting with a view to resale and

for personal use.

Beswick v Beswick [1968] AC 58

A nephew promised his Uncle to pay an annuity to his Aunty in consideration

of the Uncle transferring the goodwill of the business to the nephew. The Aunty

was not a party to the contract. The court held that it could be specifically

enforced by the Uncle’s personal representative (the Aunty) against the nephew.

Damages would have been purely nominal as the promisee or his estate had

suffered no loss. The nephew would have been unjustly enriched by being allowed

to retain the entire benefit of the uncle’s performance without performing his

own promise.

Walters v Morgan (1861)

The defendant agreed to grant the plaintiff a mining lease over land he had

just bought. Specific performance was refused as the plaintiff had produced a

draft lease and induced the defendant to sign the agreement in ignorance of the

value of the property. The plaintiff had hurried the defendant into signing the

lease before he knew the value of the property.

Lamare v Dixon (1873) LR 6 HL 414

The plaintiff induced the defendant to agree to take a lease of cellars by

orally promising they would be made dry. The promise had no effect as a

misrepresentation as it related to the future. The court refused the plaintiff

specific performance since he had made no attempt to perform his promise.

Patel v Ali [1984] 1 All ER 978

The vendor and her husband were co-owners of the house they contracted to

sell in 1979. The husband’s bankruptcy caused delay in completion. After the

contract the vendor got bone cancer, had a leg amputated and later gave birth to

her second and third children. The purchaser obtained specific performance,

against which the vendor appealed on grounds of hardship. She spoke little

English and relied on friends and relatives for help, hence it would be hardship

to leave the house and move away. It was held that the court could in a proper

case refuse specific performance on the grounds of hardship subsequent to the

contract, even if not caused by the plaintiff and not related to the subject

matter. On the facts, there would be hardship amounting to injustice, therefore

damages were awarded.

Wolverhampton Corp v Emmons [1901] 1 KB 515

The plaintiff acquired land for an improvement scheme and sold part of it to

the defendant, who covenanted to demolish houses on it and build new ones. The

demolition was carried out and plans for new houses approved. The defendant then

refused to continue. It was held that specific performance would be ordered

since the defendant’s obligations were precisely defined by the plans, and

damages would be inadequate because the defendant had possession of the site,

and the plaintiff could not get the work done by employing another contractor.

Ryan v Mutual Tontine Assoc [1893] 1 Ch 116

A lease of a service flat provided that the lessors should provide a porter

who was to be ‘constantly in attendance’. It was held that this undertaking

could not be specifically enforced. It would require ‘that constant

superintendence by the court which the court has always in such cases declined

to give’.

Posner v Scott-Lewis [1987] 3 All ER 513

The court granted an application for specific performance of a lessor’s

covenant to employ a resident porter for certain duties. The court distinguished Ryan v Mutual Tontine, where supervision of the execution of the

undertaking had been required. Here neither personal services, nor a continuous

series of acts, were required, but merely the execution of an agreement

containing provisions for such services.

Co-Op Insurance v Argyll Stores [1997] 3 All ER 297

The defendants leased a shopping unit for 35 years and covenanted to use it

as a supermarket and keep it open during the usual hours of business. The

defendant gave notice to the plaintiffs of their intention to close the

supermarket, which had made a substantial loss the previous trading year.

The House of Lords held that a covenant in a lease of retail premises to keep

open for trade during the usual hours of business was not, other than in

exceptional circumstances, specifically enforceable, since it was the settled

practice of the court not to make an order requiring a person to carry on a

business. That practice was based on sound sense, as such an order required

constant supervision, was only enforceable by the quasi-criminal procedure of

punishment for contempt and might cause injustice by allowing the plaintiff to

enrich himself at the defendant’s expense if the defendant was forced to run a

business at a loss.


Page One Records v Britton [1968] 1 WLR 157

The Troggs, a pop group, contracted to appoint the plaintiff as their sole

agent and manager for five years, and agreed not to act themselves in such

capacity and not to appoint any other person for that time. They fell out with

the manager and wanted to replace him. The plaintiff sought an injunction. It

was held that an injunction must be refused because to grant it would, in

effect, compel The Troggs to continue to employ the plaintiff, and thus would

amount to enforcing the performance of a contract for personal services.

Lumley v Wagner (1852)

The defendant contracted to sing for the plaintiff in his theatre for three

months and, at the same time, not to sing elsewhere during this time without the

plaintiff’s consent. A third party, Gye, offered the defendant a larger sum to

sing for him. The court stated that they had no power to make the defendant sing

or encourage her to sing at the plaintiff’s theatre. However, the court could

persuade her to do so by preventing her singing elsewhere by imposing an

injunction to that effect.

Warner Bros v Nelson [1937] 1 KB 209

The defendant, an actress, agreed (1) to act for the plaintiff and, at the

same time, (2) not to act or sing for anybody else for two years without the

plaintiff’s written consent, and (3) no other employment could be taken up

during this period without the plaintiff’s consent. It was held that the

defendant could be restrained by injunction from breaking the second

undertaking. She would not be forced to act for the plaintiff because she could

earn a living by doing other work.


Grant v Dawkins [1973] 1 WLR 1406

The vendor’s title to land was subject to an encumbrance which amounted to a

breach of contract. It was held that the plaintiff could get specific

performance of what title the defendant had, damages based on the cost of

discharging the encumbrance.

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