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Taylor v. Johnston

California Supreme Court
539 P.2d 425 (1975)

Taylor v. Johnston


Taylor (plaintiff) and Johnston (defendant) owned, bred, raised, and raced thoroughbred horses in California. On January 19, 1965, Taylor entered into two contracts to breed his two mares, Sunday Slippers and Sandy Fork, to Johnston’s stallion, Fleet Nasrullah. The contracts stated that both mares would be bred to Fleet Nasrullah in 1966 for a fee of $3,500 each. On October 4, 1965, Johnston sold Fleet Nasrullah to buyers in Kentucky. The buyers sold shares in Fleet Nasrullah to various shareholders and reserved shares for themselves. Their assistant, Mrs. Judy, managed Fleet Nasrullah’s breeding schedule and appointments. All shareholders were given the first option to breed with Fleet Nasrullah. If Fleet Nasrullah was not reserved by a shareholder, his services could be booked by third parties. Johnston informed Taylor that Fleet Nasrullah had been sold and stated that Taylor was “released” from his “reservations” for Fleet Nasrullah. Taylor told Johnston that he still wished to breed his mares with Fleet Nasrullah, and Johnston made arrangements for Taylor to breed his mares with Fleet Nasrullah in Kentucky. Taylor shipped the mares to Kentucky, where they stayed with Taylor's agent. Taylor's agent contacted Mrs. Judy and requested to breed Sunday Slippers to Fleet Nasrullah on four separate occasions in 1966. Each time, Mrs. Judy said Fleet Nasrullah was not available because he was already reserved by a shareholder. Mrs. Judy assured Taylor's agent that breeding would still be possible in 1966. However, after being rejected by Mrs. Judy on the final date, Taylor's agent bred Sunday Slippers to another horse. Taylor's agent also attempted unsuccessfully to breed Sandy Fork with Fleet Nasrullah on June 14, 1966. Mrs. Judy informed the agent that Fleet Nasrullah was already booked by a shareholder for that day, but she told the agent that he could reserve Fleet Nasrullah on any day that was not already reserved by a shareholder. The agent made no other attempts to breed Sandy Fork to Fleet Nasrullah and instead bred her to the same horse to which Sunday Slippers had been bred. Taylor brought suit in California state court against Johnston seeking damages for breach of contract. The trial court held that Johnston and his agents were liable for anticipatory breach and awarded damages of $103,122.50 to Taylor. Johnston appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sullivan, J.)

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