Chamberlain v. Parker
277 Mont. 198, 921 P.2d 1237 (Mont. 1996)

  • Chamberlain entered a contract with Parker to have a painting of himself painted. Parker never got around to finishing the painting.
  • Chamberlain sued for breech of contract.
    • Under the terms of the contract, Parker didn’t get the money until the painting was complete, so Chamberlain was trying to force Parker’s performance.
    • Since Parker was not a famous artist, a painting of Chamberlain probably only had value to Chamberlain, so monetary damages were not appropriate (since they would be $0).
  • The Trial Court found for Chamberlain and told Parker to complete the painting.
    • In general, courts do not like to force a party to do something (aka require specific performance), they prefer to force the party to pay monetary damages.
      • The reason for this is that it can be easily assessed whether or not monetary damages have been paid. But if Parker paints a painting of Chamberlain because he is forced to, and does a poor job and the painting is ugly, what is the court to do? How do you assess whether or not Parker was making an ugly painting on purpose because he was angry about losing the case? And should the courts make him do it again? Specific performance just causes headaches for the courts they’d rather not deal with.
    • But in this case, the market doesn’t reflect the value of the painting to the plaintiff. Since the painting had a market value of $0, it wasn’t reasonable to force Parker to pay monetary damages.
      • Compare to Jacob & Young v. Kent (230 N.Y. 239, 129 N.E. 889 (N.Y. 1921)) where the market value was the same as the value to the plaintiff.
      • Market value is a reasonable standard in some cases, but it is not a reasonable standard in other cases.