Sumpter v Hedges [1898] 1 QB 673

Partial performance of a contract.


A builder contracted to build two houses and stables for the lump sum of £565. The builder only completed part of the work, after which he abandoned the contract. The completed works amounted to a value of £333. A summary judgement found that the builder abandoned the contract. The builder brought an action against the land owner for the full payment of the £333 for his partial performance of the contract.


The question arose as to whether (1) the partial performance of the contractual works entitled the employee for payment of the value of the work done; or, alternatively, (2) there was a right to recover for value of the work separately.


Firstly, the Court held that, under a contract of work for a lump sum payment, the contractual price cannot be recovered, neither in whole nor in part, until the contractual work is complete. If the work was completed, yet with certain omissions or defects, then the employer would take the benefit of the completed works and the employee would be entitled to payment of the contract price with deductions. However, on the facts, the employee abandoned the contract without completion. This partial performance of the contract works does not entitle the employee to recover any payment of the contract price under a lump sum contract. Secondly, the Court held that, alternatively, quantum meruit payment would require the inference of a new contract for the partial work, independent from the lump sum contract. Yet, on the facts, there is no inference of a new contract for partial works. As the only applicable contract is the lump sum contract, the employee was not entitled to recover the contract price for his partial performance of the contractual works.

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