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 the relief sought is essentially money damages for invasion of a legal contractual right, equity has of course no jurisdiction, since the case is one for which there is a plain, adequate and complete remedy at law.1 Special facts may, however, authorize equity to award money damages either in lieu of specific performance or in addition thereto.2 Thus if the case is one in which specific performance would have been awarded but for the fact that by reason of circumstances unknown to the plaintiff enforcement of the decree has become impossible, equity may award compensation in damages to the plaintiff.3 Thus if an owner4 of corporate stock has agreed to sell it or a corporation5 has contracted to issue stock; and when specific performance is sought, the vendor has disposed of all his stock, equity may decree compensation in lieu of specific performance. Thus an action was brought to enforce specific performance of a contract to maintain and operate a railroad on a given route. Before final decree was rendered the original line of the railroad had so decayed that it could not be used, the business of the road being transferred to a new line. It was held that while specific performance had become impracticable compensation should be decreed.6 If, however, the plaintiff knows facts which make specific performance impracticable and with such knowledge brings a suit for specific performance, some courts hold that neither specific performance nor compensation can be given.7 If a contract to convey realty cannot be enforced specifically, the vendee may have compensation for the value of improvements made by him upon the realty contracted for, and may have a lien therefor declared upon such realty.8 So if the vendor repudiates the contract, the vendee may have compensation and a lien for the part of the purchase money paid in and the value of the improvements made.9 Compensation has been given even to a party guilty of laches which prevents him from obtaining specific performance, where limitations has elapsed pending the suit in equity.-10
4 Wilson v. Campbell, 10 I11.383; St. Joseph Hydraulic Co. v. Paper Co., 156 Ind. 665; 59 N. E. 995; Somerby v. Buntin, 118 Mass. 279; 19 Am. Rep. 459; Birchett v. Boiling, 5 Munf. (Va.) 442.
5 Sheffield Gas Consumers' Co. v. Harrison, 17 Beav. 294.
6 Oriental Inland Steam Co. v. Briggs, 4 De G. F. & J. 191; New Brunswick, etc., Co. v. Muggeridge, 4 Drew. 686.
1 Pierce v. Plumb, 74 I11. 326; Bradford, etc., By. v. By., 123 N. Y.
316; 11 L. R. A. 116; 25 N. E. 499.
2 (Columbus, etc.) Railroad v. Steinfeld, 42 O. S. 449.
3 Pratt v. Law, 9 Cranch (U. S.) 456; Birmingham National Bank v. Roden, 97 Ala. 404; 11 So. 883; Thresher v. Bank, 68 Conn. 201; 36 Atl. 38; Cornell v. Rodabaugh, 117 la. 287; 90 N. W. 599; Chaffee v. R. R., 146 Mass. 224: 16 N. E. 34.
4 Chaffee v. R. R.. 146 Mass. 224; 16 N. E. 34; Wonson v. Fenno, 129 Mass. 405.