Jacob & Youngs v. Kent
230 N.Y. 239, 129 N.E. 889 (N.Y. 1921)

  • Jacob & Youngs was hired to build a house for Kent.  Kent specified a specific brand of pipe. Jacob & Youngs built the house, but neglected to use the brand of pipe specified.
    • The pipe Jacob & Youngs used met all the specifications, it just wasn’t the same brand.
  • Kent found out about this a year after moving in and refused to pay the balance of the contract. Jacob & Young sued for breach of contract.
    • Kent’s architect refused to certify the house as being complete unless the pipes were replaced.
    • It would have cost an enormous amount of money to replace the pipes since the walls had already been put in. You’d pretty much have to knock the entire house down and start form scratch.
  • The Trial Court found for Kent.
    • The court excluded evidence showing that the pipes were pretty much identical.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that Jacob & Youngs default was unintentional and trivial, and that they had substantially performed on the contract.
    • Kent was entitled to recover the difference in the value of the house resulting from the use of a different brand of pipe (if any), but other than that, he was required to pay the full amount of the contract.
    • The breach was not a condition of the contract.  Breaches that are not conditions are atoned for by calculating damages, they do not excuse the other party from performance.