CHENEY V. LIBBY, 134 U. S. 68 (1890)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cheney v. Libby, 134 U.S. 68 (1890)

Cheney v. Libby

No. 724

Submitted December 4, 1889

Decided March 3, 1890

134 U.S. 68


Time may be made of the essence of a contract relating to the purchase of realty by the express stipulations of the parties, or it may arise by implication from the very nature of the property or the avowed objects of the seller or the purchaser, and unless its provisions contravene public policy, the court should give effect to them according to the real intention of the parties.

But even when time is made material by express stipulation, the failure of one of the parties to perform a condition within the particular time limited will not in every case defeat his right to specific performance if the condition he subsequently performed without unreasonable delay and no circumstances have intervened that would render it unjust or inequitable to bide such relief. The discretion which the court has to decree specific performance may be controlled by the conduct of the party who refuses to perform the contract because of the failure of the other party to strictly comply with its conditions.

Page 134 U. S. 69

When a contract for the purchase of land provides that it shall be forfeited if the vendee fails to pay any installment of the purchase price at the time limited, the failure of the latter to make a tender of payment in lawful money of a particular installment on the very day it falls due will not deprive him of the right to have specific performance if such failure was superinduced by the conduct of the vendor and if the vendee, without unreasonable delay, tenders payment in lawful money after the time so limited.

A provision in the contract forbidding its modification or change except by entry thereon in writing signed by both parties, coupled with a provision that no court should relieve the purchaser from a failure to comply strictly and literally with its conditions, has no application when the apparent cause of the failure to perform such conditions was the conduct of the vendor.

If the vendor notifies the purchaser that he regards the contract as forfeited and that he will not receive any money from him, the latter is not required, as a condition of his right to specific performance, to make tender of the purchase price. It is sufficient if he offer in his bill to bring the money into court.

A note for the purchase price of land is made payable at a particular time and at a particular bank. The payor is ready at such time and place to pay, and offers to pay, but the bank has not received the note for collection. Held

(1) The bank is not authorized to receive the money for the payee by reason simply of the fact that the note is payable there.

(2) The tender of payment is not payment.

(3) A decree of specific performance should not become operative until the money is brought into court.

(4) The payee is not entitled to interest unless it appears that the payor, after the tender, realized interest upon the money.

In equity. The case is stated in the opinion.

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