This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
If performance of a contract by one party is not compulsory, but is only to be rendered in case of his election so to do, specific performance cannot be enforced against him as long as he has not made his election to perform; since this would be denying to him a right which, by the terms of the contract, he has reserved. So specific performance cannot be given of a contract the performance of which is optional with both parties.1 According to many authorities he cannot have specific performance against the adversary party before such election is made by him, since he may afterward elect not to perform, and thus leave the adversary party without right or remedy,1 So a party who has the right to end the contract on ten days' notice,3 or a year's notice,4 or who is bound to perform only as long as he is the agent of the Associated Press, no provision of the contract requiring him to act as such agent for any period of time,5 can none of them have specific performance against the adversary party. If, however, the party to whom the election is given has elected to perform, and has performed, it is held that the want of mutuality is thereby eliminated, and that he may then have specific performance in proper cases against the adversary party. Like results follow where performance is expressly made conditional on some event outside the contract. Thus if A agrees to sell realty to X on condition that A's co-owner B shall sell his interest to X, X cannot have specific performance against A if B refuses to sell.6 So if A and B enter into an agreement which cannot be performed unless A succeeds in buying a railroad at a sheriff's sale, A cannot have specific performance against B.7
Russ. 298. Coverture. Warren v. Costello, 109 Mo. 338; 32 Am. St. Rep. 669; 19 So. 29. (Want of acceptance and want of consideration are also facts preventing specific performance in this case.) Richards v. Green. 23 N. J. Eq. 536; Shenandoah Valley R. R. v. Dunlop, 86 Va. 346; 10 S. E. 239. If the married woman is bound by her contract under the statute in force, she may, of course, have specific performance. Moore v. Baker, - N J. Eq. - ; 55 Atl. 106.
4 Railroad Co. v. Telegraph Co., 38 O. S. 24.
5 Infant. Yerkes v. Richards, 153 Pa. St. 646; 34 Am. St. Rep. 721; 26 Atl. 221. Feme covert.- Richards v. Doyle, 36 0. S. 37; 38 Am. Rep. 550; Shenandoah Valley R. R. v. Dunlop, 86 Va. 346; 10 S. E. 239.
6 That the principal can have specific performance. Rank v. Garvey, - Neb. - ; 92 N. W. 1025. That the principal cannot have specific performance. Atlee v. Bartholomew, 69 Wis. 43; 2 Am.. St. Rep. 103; 33 N. W. 110.