Sky Petroleum Ltd v VIP Petroleum Ltd (1974) 1 WLR 576

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  • VIP Petroleum contracted with Sky Petroleum to sell them a certain amount of petrol
  • There was an oil crisis and so VIP Petroleum decided to breach the contract and pay damages
  • Sky Petroleum said damages weren’t sufficient and tried to get specific performance so they could stay in business
  • Goulding J: Specific performance is not usually awarded for specific goods
  • However the uncertain and fluctuating petroleum market meant that it was appropriate to award specific performance
  • “the court refuses specific performance of a contract to sell and purchase chattels not specific or ascertained… under the ordinary contract for the sale of non-specific goods, damages are a sufficient remedy… [However] the petroleum market is in an unusual state in which a would-be buyer cannot go out into the market and contract with another seller, possibly at some sacrifice to price. Here, the defendants appear for practical purposes to be the plaintiffs’ sole means of keeping their business going, and I am prepared so far to depart from the general rule as to try to preserve the position under the contract until a later date”

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