A party who has substantially performed and then breached is entitled to restitution of a benefit conferred on the injured party, if the injured party has refused (even though justifiably) to complete his own performance owing to the other’s breach. Since the party in breach is liable to the injured party for damages for loss, this rule comes into play only when the benefit conferred is greater than the amount the nonbreaching party has lost. Arlene agrees to sell her property to Calhoun for $120,000, and Calhoun makes a partial payment of $30,000. He then repudiates. Arlene turns around and sells the property to a third party for $110,000. Calhoun—the breaching party—can get his money back, less the damages Arlene suffered as a result of his breach. He gets $30,000 minus the $10,000 loss Arlene incurred. He gets $20,000 in restitution. Otherwise Arlene would be enriched by Calhoun’s breach: she’d get $140,000 in total for real estate worth $120,000. But if he gets $20,000 of his $30,000 back, she receives $110,000 from the third party and $10,000 from Calhoun, so she gets $120,000 total (plus, we hope, incidental damages, at least).
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Part Performance and Then Breach