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Steward v. Yoder

OPINION FILED JULY 17, 1980.

RONALD DEAN STEWARD ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

DEAN YODER ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of DeWitt County; the Hon. JOHN P. SHONKWILER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an action for damages for breach of contract to sell 40 acres of land in DeWitt County. Plaintiffs were buyers and defendants were sellers. The circuit court of DeWitt County, sitting without a jury, awarded damages to plaintiffs and defendants have appealed. The only questions raised are the proper measure of damages and the award of interest on certain items.

The facts are not in dispute. The parties entered into a standard contract of sale on July 30, 1974. It provided that the defendants would furnish merchantable title by October 1, 1974, and would deliver possession on March 1, 1975, or upon removal of the 1974 crops, whichever was earlier. Plaintiffs made a down payment of $6,000 and were to pay the balance of $54,000 by March 1, 1975. The consideration was $1,500 per acre.

Defendants admit that they were unable to furnish merchantable title on the date specified, or at any time thereafter. It is also admitted that plaintiffs took possession of the premises between October 31, 1974, and January 31, 1975. During this period they prepared for the 1975 crops, plowing and fertilizing, and removing a fence. Possession was returned to defendants on February 1, 1975.

The trial court awarded plaintiffs the sum of $32,278.90 which it calculated as follows:

1. Difference between contract price ($1,500 per acre) and market value on March 1, 1975 ($2,050 per acre) $22,000.00

2. Return of down payment 6,000.00

3. Interest at 5% on down payment from August 9, 1974, date of payment, to June 29, 1979, date of decision 1,473.70

4. Value of work done between October 31, 1974, and January 31, 1975 1,974.59

5. Interest on item No. 4 at 9% from October 26, 1974, to June 29, 1979 830.61.

Defendants quarrel with three of the foregoing items and raise those issues for review: (1) as to item No. 1, defendants claim that in the absence of bad faith on the part of the seller, the buyer is entitled as damages only to the return of his down payment plus interest, not to the difference between contract price and market value; (2) as to item No. 3, defendants claim that interest should run only to the date upon which they tendered back the down payment in August 1975, about one year following its payment, not to the date of decision; (3) as to item No. 5, defendants claim that no interest at all is due on this.

We disagree with them as to the first two issues, but concur with them as to the third.

• 1 The law of Illinois as to the measure of damages in a case such as this has been settled since Plummer v. Rigdon (1875), 78 Ill. 222. In that case the supreme court said:

"Under these authorities, it may be regarded as the settled law in this State, that, in an action by a vendee to recover damages for a failure to convey, the value of the land at the time the conveyance is to be ...


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