A Day in Court

Introduction

This report is about a court visit that I attended at the West Covina courthouse branch of the L.A County Superior court. The presiding judge was Judge Christian Gullon a fairly young judge with characteristic black hair and strong voice. In some of the cases, both the plaintiff and the defendants were present. However, there were some cases in which only one party was present. I took special interest in the case of Christen Monroe vs. Bustos Trucking since both parties were present and the technicality of the case stood out among the rest. The judge was in a dark robe that run from neck to toe and his bench was strategically placed at the top centre of the court room and was slightly elevated.

The court procedures were respected; people stood up in honor as the judge made his formal entry to the court room and once a ruling was made the judge hits his gavel to signify and end to a case.

Case Summary

In this case, the plaintiff, Christen Monroe argued that Bustos Trucking should pay for all the work done as per the contractual agreement that they had. However, the plaintiff did not complete the work as he had a mechanical problem on the machines. The defendant on realizing that the work had not been completed, did not meet his contractual obligations and did not pay for the work done as required.

This case falls under the law of contract and relates to discharge of contract in particular.

Plaintiff’s argument

The plaintiff argued that a contract was undertaken to move the defendant’s furniture from his former office to a new office complex he had rented out at a fee of $780. This contract was actually signed by both parties and an agreement that payment was to be done upon completion of the work at hand. As per the contract, the plaintiff carried the first batch of furniture and promptly delivered them to his new office complex but on his way back to get the second batch his truck broke down and he was not able to discharge the other bit of the contract. On this note, on seeking payment for services rendered the plaintiff sought payment for half the job done but the defendant refused to pay.

Defendant’s answer

The defense argued that the contract was for moving all the furniture and the plaintiff had not fully undertaken his obligations in the contract. The defendant’s representative stated that under the law, a contract is only enforceable once all the obligations of all parties in the contract are met. In this case, the contract was not enforceable because both parties did not meet their obligations in the contract. The defendant argued that it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to ensure that his vehicles were fully serviced since his business was that of transport.

Counter argument

The plaintiff argued that he did in fact contact the plaintiff immediately when he experienced mechanical problems with his truck and even notified him that he had procured the services of a mechanic who was repairing the truck. However after the truck was fixed and on calling the defendant, he informed him that he had procured the services of another transport company; this meant that the plaintiff’s services were no longer needed. On asking for payment the defendant declined to pay the full amount because he felt that not all the work had been done as per the contract.

 

 

Facts of the case

The case relates to the law of contract which states that a contract is to be discharged if and when both parties mutually meet their obligations precisely as set out in the contract (Helewitz, 2010). However there are exemptions to this law of contracts where granting of quantum meruit can be applied. This is especially in contracts involving substantial performance and prevented performance which both apply to this case (Helewitz, 2010). The plaintiffs car broke down which was an act he was not in control over and limited his discharge of duty thus qualifying for prevented performance. Furthermore, a substantial piece of the contract had been carried out that is half the contract and thus the rule of substantial performance did apply.

Ruling

The ruling was in favor of the plaintiff. The judge argued that the law of quantum meruit which he clearly stated means ‘as much as earned.’ He vividly spelt out that although the law of contract did state that a contract is only valid when the terms of condition of the contract are met, there was an exception to this when the contract was partially done and the cause of not completion was valid. Upon receiving a receipt as evidence for a $402 payment to the other transport company, he ruled that as per the contract the sum payable was to be $780 then the difference was to be paid by the defendant to the plaintiff which totaled to $378.

My impression

I felt that the case was actually handled quite fairly since in my view the plaintiff was willing to fully undertake his obligations in the contract only to be derailed by a mechanical hitch in his truck which is quite a normal occurrence and was therefore entitled to be paid. I felt both parties went home feeling good since the defendant would spend the same amount of money he would have spent in the contract which is $780 while the plaintiff also got payment for the partial job that he had undertaken.

The case renewed my confidence in the judiciary as an arbitration institution in the country. I would have delivered a similar judgment because it seemed fair to both cases. Through the case, I got to understand the importance of both parties being present during the hearing for both of them to have a fair hearing.

Finally it was paramount for one to be adequately prepared for a court case and to carry all relevant information relating to the case so that all facts are presented for a fair outcome of the trial to be given. This was particularly the case in my study case since if the defendant had not produced the receipt of $412 spent on the alternative company, then it was more likely than not he would have parted with half the figure in the contract of $390 bringing his total to $792 instead of the $780 dollars he parted with.