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Rich & Whillock, Inc. v. Ashton Development, Inc.

California Court of Appeal
204 Cal. Rptr. 86 (1984)


Ashton Development, Inc. (Ashton) (defendant) and Bob Britton, Inc. (Britton) (defendant) entered into a contract with Rich & Whillock, Inc. (Rich & Whillock) (plaintiff) for the grading and excavation of Ashton’s property, for which Britton was the general contractor. The contract stated that Rich & Whillock would provide the services for $112,900, but also stated that all rocks removed would cost extra. When Rich & Whillock found rock on the site, Rich & Whillock estimated that removing the rock would cost an extra $60,000, but made clear to Britton that the rock removal could actually cost much more. Britton agreed to pay for the extra cost. Rich & Whillock received about $190,000 in payments from Britton and submitted a final invoice to Britton for another $72,286.45. Britton refused to pay the final invoice. Rich & Whillock informed Britton that Rich & Whillock would face financial ruin if not paid. Britton offered Rich & Whillock $50,000 in satisfaction of the contract, saying that Rich & Whillock would otherwise receive nothing. Rich & Whillock, calling it “blackmail,” signed the $50,000 agreement and a document releasing the defendants from any further claims. Britton paid the $50,000. Rich & Whillock sued the defendants for the remaining $22,286.45, which the trial court awarded on the basis that the $50,000 agreement and release had been signed under economic duress. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wiener, J.)

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