• Business Law, Small Business Law

    Posted on April 12th, 2011

    Written by Bryan


    Brunetto v. Curtis (10th District – Franklin County Court of Appeals)
    2011 Ohio 1610
    Franklin County Municipal Court
    2009 CVI 026311


    After executing a written contract for the performance of a 17 piece band at a wedding for $2,550, Defendant Tiffany Curtis cancelled their services two weeks prior to the performance. The Franklin County Municipal Court Small Claims Division awarded Plaintiff Rick Brunetto, the band leader, his personal share of the fee at $240. Brunetto appealed asking for the full fee he owed to each of the band members.

    The 10th District Court of Appeals held:

    The Supreme Court of Ohio set forth rules governing the recovery of damages for an anticipatory breach or repudiation of a contract in Allen, Heaton & McDonald v. Castle Farm Amusement Co. (1949), 151 Ohio St. 522. Where a defendant repudiates a contract before the plaintiff substantially performs and thereby relieves the plaintiff of the obligation to perform, the plaintiff may maintain an action on the contract to recover damages for the defendant’s breach. Those “damages may include the further compensation [the] plaintiff would have received under the contract if it had been performed, less the value to [the] plaintiff of his being relieved of the obligation of completing performance.” Id. at paragraph one of the syllabus.

    Brunetto at ¶ 14.  The Court further hinted how the trial court should rule on remand, “…it cannot be contended seriously that the parties expected that a breach would obligate Curtis to pay only Brunetto’s personal portion of the Band’s fee… The contract price is, therefore, the starting point for a determination of recoverable damages.” Id. at ¶ 15. The Court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing on the matter of damages consistent with this opinion.


    This is the right result, and it is the result the small claims magistrate originally suggested. You can help guide the court to a proper damages calculation by using a clearly drafted contract. In this case, the band members still have not been made whole more than 2 years after the breach of contract. As a business practice you can mitigate these problems by collecting fees in advance, having a clear cancellation policy, and using written agreements with your subcontractors.

    I will try to obtain a copy of the contract used in this case and update this post.

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