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Stees v. Leonard

Minnesota Supreme Court
20 Gil. 448 (1874)



Stees (plaintiff) entered into a contract with Leonard (Leonard) (defendant) for the construction of a three-story building on Stees' lot. The contract contained plans and specifications for the building to be erected, including details regarding the thickness of the foundation walls and the size and location of the footings. On the first two attempts to construct the building, the building collapsed after reaching the height of three stories. After the second collapse, Leonard refused to do any further work under the contract. Stees commenced an action against Leonard to recover damages resulting from Leonard's failure to complete the building. Stees alleged that the collapse was due to Leoanard's negligent work and the poor quality of the materials used. Leonard alleged that the collapse was caused by the soil. The soil was proved to be quicksand that was unable to sustain the weight of the building and in order for the building to be constructed, the land would have to be drained. However, the trial court barred, as inadmissible parol evidence, Leonard’s claim that Stees agreed to drain the land and that Stees’ failure to do so caused the collapse. Without this evidence, the jury returned a verdict for Stees. The trial court denied Leonard's motion for a new trial and Leonard appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Young, J.)

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