Procedural Posture

Appellant, the executrix of a decedent’s estate (general contractor), challenged an order of the Superior Court of the city and county of San Francisco (California), entering a jury verdict and damages award in favor of appellee contractor, in an action to recover damages in quantum meruit.

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Overview

Pursuant to a written contract with a general contractor, a contractor was to grade a 74-mile section of a railway line. After the contractor had completed work on approximately 20 miles of track, the general contractor refused to make further payments pursuant to the contract. In an action to recover damages in quantum meruit, the court awarded damages to the contractor, including interest from the date that his services had been provided. The court held that the trial court erred in awarding interest on the damages award, because the amount of the damages was based upon the services provided by the contractor, not upon the contract, and were therefore uncertain as to amount, character, and value until fixed by a verdict or findings of the court. The court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the contractor to amend his complaint, and that the contractor’s right to recovery was not barred by a certain contract which he had made with a third party. Finally, the court ruled that there was sufficient evidence of record to support the trial court’s finding as to the work actually performed by the contractor and its value.

Outcome

The court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to modify its damages award in favor of the contractor by striking out the interest, and recomputing the interest thereon at the rate of seven percent per annum from the date of entry of such judgment, together with the costs of the suit.

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