There are instances where a party can engage in the anticipatory repudiation of their obligations under a contract. In essence, this is basically a party prospectively breaching the contract by repudiating their obligations in the contract.
A prospective breach of contract occurs where there is absolute repudiation by one of the parties prior to the time when his performance is due under the terms of the contract. Such a repudiation may be evidenced by words or voluntary acts but the refusal must be distinct, unequivocal, and absolute. Moreover, repudiation can be shown where one party makes additional demands not included in the initial agreement:
The law is clear that where one party to the contract arbitrarily demands performance not required by the contract and couples this demand with a refusal to further perform unless the demand is met, the party has anticipatorily repudiated the contract, which anticipatory repudiation relieves the non-breaching party of its duty to further perform and creates in it an immediate cause of action for breach of contract.
24 Hr Air Service, Inc. v. Hosanna Community Baptist Church, Inc., 46 Fla. L. Weekly, D1344a (Fla. 3d DCA 2021) (quotations and citations omitted).
In 24 Hr Air Service, an air conditioning contractor agreed to perform repairs to a Church’s air conditioning unit. However, when the contractor went into the attic to start the repairs, the wooden platform in the attic was unstable and a portion of the ceiling collapsed. The Church repaired the ceiling. However, the contractor refused to return to complete its repairs citing safety reasons. The contractor requested proof the repairs to the ceiling were made before it returned to complete its contracted work and such proof was never provided.
Did the contractor’s refusal to complete its work amount to anticipatory repudiation of its contract by imposing the additional demand of proof of repairs to the ceiling before completing its contracted work? Both the trial and appellate court believed so.
The Contractor’s request that the Church provide safety assurances of the ceiling repairs constitutes an additional demand that was not agreed to by the parties under the service contract. Despite the Contractor’s argument that it never abandoned the job, its demand for safety assurances coupled with its refusal to complete the agreed repairs until such assurances were provided was an anticipatory breach of the contract.
24 Hr Air Service, Inc., supra.
Based on the anticipatory repudiation or breach of the contract, what were the Church’s damages?
The proper measure of damages “would be either the reasonable cost of completion, or the difference between the value the repair would have had if completed and the value of the repair that has been thus far performed.” 24 Hr Air Service, Inc., supra (quotation and citation omitted). This is referred to as benefit-of-the bargain damages, with the objective to place the damaged party in the position “he would have been in had the contract been completely performed.” Id. The party, however, cannot seek what is known as “betterment” or a better deal than what it originally bargained for—a party “can neither receive more than [it] bargained for nor be put in a better position than [it] would have been had the contract been performed.” Id.
If you are dealing with a breach of contract, or even a prospective breach / anticipatory repudiation of an existing contract, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to assist you in preserving your arguments, the proper measure of damages for the breach, and any potential betterment associated with your damages.
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