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Sumpter V. Hedges Notes

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SUMPTER V. HEDGES FACTS The action was for work done and materials provided. The plaintiff, a builder, had contracted with the defendant to build upon the defendant's land two houses and stables for the sum of 565l. The plaintiff did part of the work, amounting in value to about 333l., and had received payment of part of the price. He then informed the defendant that he had no money, and could not go on with the work. The learned judge found that he had abandoned the contract. The defendant thereupon finished the buildings on his own account, using for that purpose certain building materials which the plaintiff had left on the ground. The judge gave judgment for the plaintiff for the value of the materials so used, but allowed him nothing in respect of the work which he had done upon the buildings. HOLDING A. L. SMITH LJ The law is that, where there is a contract to do work for a lump sum, until the work is completed the price of it cannot be recovered. Therefore the plaintiff could not recover on the original contract. It is suggested however that the plaintiff was entitled to recover for the work he did on a quantum meruit. But, in order that that may be so, there must be evidence of a fresh contract to pay for the work already done. With regard to that, the case of Munro v. Butt appears to be exactly in point. That case decides that, unless the building owner does something from which a new contract can be inferred to pay for the work already done, the plaintiff in such a case as this cannot recover on a quantum meruit... there being no circumstances to justify an inference of a fresh contract the plaintiff must fail. CHITTY L J A long series of cases in which it has been decided that there must in such a case be some evidence of a new contract to enable the plaintiff to recover on a quantum meruit... He says: "In the case of goods sold and delivered, it is easy to shew a contract from the retention of the goods; but that is not so where work is done on real property." I think the learned judge was quite right in holding that in this case there was no evidence from which a fresh contract to pay for the work done could be inferred. COLLINS LJ If the plaintiff had merely broken his contract in some way so as not to give the defendant the right to treat him as having abandoned the contract, and the defendant had then proceeded to

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