Swift v Swift: PC 1863

A claim was made for specific performance of a contract for the payment of an annuity of pounds 40.00 per quarter.
Held: Specific performance was ordered. Lord Plunket LC: ‘ It is said she has a complete remedy at Law for the breach of this contract, and that, therefore, this Court should not interfere. Now, the remedy at Law could only be obtained in one of two ways, either by at once recovering damages for all the breaches that might occur during the joint lives of herself and the defendant, or by bringing four actions in each year, and recovering in each the amount of a quarterly payment of the annuity. Those are the two modes of redress open to the plaintiff at Law. And I am called on to refuse relief here on the ground that such remedies are equally beneficial and effectual for the plaintiff as that which this Court could afford. To refuse relief on such a ground would not, in my opinion, be a rational administration of justice. I do not see that there is any authority for refusing relief, and certainly there is no foundation in reason for doing so.’ As to the case of Adderley: ‘ Applying this to the present case, leaving the plaintiff to proceed at Law and to get damages at once for all the breaches that might occur during the joint lives of her and the defendant, would, in effect, be altering the entire nature of the contract that she entered into: it would be compelling her to accept a certain sum, a sum to be ascertained by the conjecture of a jury as to what was the value of the annuity. This would be most unreasonable and unjust : her contract was for the periodical payment of certain sums during an uncertain period ; she was entitled to a certain sum of money, and she agreed to give up that for an annuity for her own and the defendant’s lives, and to insist on her now accepting a certain sum of money in the shape of damages for it, would be in effect to make her convert into money, what she, having in money, exchanged for an annuity. As to her resorting four times every year to a Court of Law for each quarterly payment of this annuity, it is a manifest absurdity to call that a beneficial or effectual remedy for the plaintiff ; and resting the case on that ground alone, I think I am warranted by the highest authority in granting the relief sought.’
Lord Plunket LC
[1863] 3 I Eq R 267
CitedAdderley v Dixon 23-Feb-1824
(Specific Performance) . .

Cited by:
CitedBeswick v Beswick HL 29-Jun-1967
The deceased had assigned his coal merchant business to the respondent against a promise to pay andpound;5.00 a week to his widow whilst she lived. The respondent appealed an order requiring him to make the payments, saying that as a consolidating . .

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Updated: 20 May 2021; Ref: scu.251061