118 Eng.Rep. 922
In Hochster v. De la Tour (1853), the Queen's Bench in England heard a case where Albert Hochster, a courier, sued traveler Edgar De la Tour for breaking a contract. They agreed that Hochster would serve as De la Tour's courier for three months, starting June 1, 1852, for 10 pounds per month plus a 50-pound advance. But on May 11, De la Tour said he no longer needed Hochster and wouldn't pay him. Hochster sued on May 22 for breach of contract damages.
De la Tour claimed the contract couldn't be breached before June 1, and Hochster hadn't actually lost anything because he could find other work. The trial court ruled for Hochster, granting damages. Upon appeal, the Queen's Bench also sided with him.
The court held that De la Tour breached the contract by renouncing it before the performance date, allowing Hochster to sue immediately. This demonstrated the test of anticipatory breach: whether one party clearly and unequivocally refuses to fulfill the contract before performance is due. The court deemed De la Tour guilty of this and affirmed Hochster's damages based on his expected earnings.
This case highlights anticipatory breach, a legal doctrine permitting a suing party when the opposite party repudiates the contract before fulfillment. The concept acknowledges that contracts require trust and cooperation, and parties shouldn't have to wait for unfulfilled performance or fulfill their own responsibilities when the other refuses to.
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