New York Court of Appeals - 314 N.E.2d 419, 34 N.Y.2d 379
In Freund v. Washington Square Press (1974), the New York Court of Appeals examined a contract dispute regarding a publication agreement. The plaintiff (Freund) argued that the defendant (Washington Square Press) breached the contract by failing to publish the manuscript in hardcover within the agreed-upon 18-month timeframe. The main question before the court was determining the appropriate damages for the defendant's breach of contract.
The court concluded that the plaintiff was only entitled to nominal damages, as the claimed consequential and expectation damages were too speculative and uncertain. The delay in academic promotion depended on factors beyond the manuscript's publication, and estimating lost royalties or publication costs was difficult given the unknown marketability of the manuscript.
This case is significant because it highlights the principle of certainty in contract law, which requires damages to be proven with reasonable certainty rather than conjecture or speculation. Additionally, the court's decision emphasizes that damages should not put the injured party in a better position than they would have been had the contract been performed as agreed. The ruling also indicates that courts will consider the contract's nature and purpose, as well as the harm's foreseeability and causation, when determining recoverable damages.
This case involves a breach of contract claim by an author against a publisher for failing to publish the author's manuscript. The court denied specific performance and awarded $10,000 for the cost of hardcover publication. Recovery for lost royalties and the cost of paperbound publication was denied. The lower court erred in denying specific performance. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's decision that the cost of publication was not the proper measure of damages. The court ordered a trial on the issue of damages to determine the appropriate compensation for the plaintiff's interests in the contract. Only nominal damages are recoverable as a formal vindication of the plaintiff's legal right to compensation.
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