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The Opera Company of Boston, Inc. v. The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
817 F.2d 1094 (1987)


Facts

The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (defendant) hired The Opera Company of Boston, Inc. (plaintiff) to perform four operas at a facility in a national park. The contract provided that Wolf Trap would make a down payment as well as a payment before each of the four performances. Wolf Trap was also obligated to provide the facilities and lighting for the performances. The first three performances happened as scheduled. Wolf Trap paid the down payment and the installment for those first three performances. On the day of the fourth opera performance, a severe thunderstorm caused an electrical power outage in the area. The parties met with the National Park Service about the issue. There was no indication that power would be restored in time, and there were no alternate power solutions that appeared sufficient. Ultimately, Wolf Trap decided to cancel the performance, and the Opera Company did not object. Wolf Trap never paid the Opera Company the installment for the canceled fourth performance, and the Opera Company sued for breach of contract. Wolf Trap raised the defense of impossibility. The trial court found that it was indeed impossible for Wolf Trap to go forward with the fourth performance. However, the trial judge also found that a power outage was foreseeable, and that Wolf Trap could not rely on a defense of impossibility if the event was foreseeable. Wolf Trap appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Russell, J.)

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