Sumpter v Hedges [1898] 1 QB 673

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Facts
  • A builder enters into a contract to build a home for the value of approx. $600
  • $400 into the contract, he abandons the work
  • The client then finished building the home but didn’t pay the builder the $400.
  • The builder sued, saying the client freely accepted the work that he had already completed.
Issue
  • Can you have free acceptance of a building that must be finished to be usable following abandonment?
Held
  • Smith LJ: There was no free acceptance, for what is an owner to do? He can’t leave it in an unfinished state forever
  • The builders cannot recover any of it because it was a lump sum contract and they didn’t do the work required
  • There was no fresh contract so couldn’t recover on quantum meruit
  • Chitty LJ: As above
  • Collins LJ: If you are to recover when you have abandoned the contract, the person must have freely accepted the work; they had no choice in this circumstance
Relevance
  • This case is a demonstration of the principle that you can only recover part of a contract if the contract is not lump sum, and if the owner freely accepts the work. They cannot just have no choice.

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