Short, old folks can’t possibly be a threat – on repudiatory breach

When a contracting party breaches the contract, this would usually lead to a claim in damages. However, there is a category of breach that is more serious in nature, known as repudiatory breach. This is the kind of breach deemed to be so serious that it allows the other party to bring the contract to an end, in addition to claiming for damages. By bring the contract to an end, the other party would be released from further obligations under the contract.

Usually, when a repudiatory breach happens, the other party through their lawyers will inform the party in breach that he/she accepts the repudiation and considers that the contract has come to an end. However, there is no need for the exact and precise words to be used.

In the case of Angus Joinery Ltd v James and Valerie McKay, the McKays had ordered for the installation of 6 specially made windows. This was Mr McKay’s wedding anniversary present to his wife. Unfortunately, Angus Joinery Ltd workers were less than competent in the task, and completed the work badly, leaving a big mess and staining a carpet.

The McKays required the workers to rectify their defects. However, the workers refused to do so because they claimed that Mr McKay had made physical threats against them, and that such physical threats amounted to a repudiatory breach.

And what did the Court make of all these?

The Court found that the employees of Angus Joinery could not have been afraid of Mr McKay, on account of his being short in stature and well beyond 60 years of age. Therefore, the Court rejected the claim of repudiatory breach.

The moral of the story?

It may well take more than some threats from a shorter, older gentleman to amount to repudiatory breach to allow a contracting party to avoid its contractual obligations. The circumstances that may amount to a repudiatory breach, however, would be as varied as factual matrixes go.

Kheng Hoe Advocates wishes all our clients and friends a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. We can be reached at khenghoe@khenghoe.com. 

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