Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co. 35 F.2d 301(1929)

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Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co.

Circuit Ct of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

35 F.2d 301(1929)


Jan 7 1924 Rockingham County board of commissioners agree to contract, after much controversy, with Luten Bridge to build a bridge for a planned road.

The controversy surrounding the K led one board member, WK Pruitt to resign. He reneged but the board ignored and appointed WW Hampton to succeed him

Feb 21 the board decided the K to be not legal or valid and that Luten should proceed no further, therefore breaching the K.

At this time not much work had been done estimated at $1900

Notice was sent to Luten to cease construction

April 7th it was found that one of the board members had been privately insisting the bridge be built

Luten continued const of the bridge to completion billing the county $18,301.07

Procedural History

  • Nov 24th 1924 Luten instituted action against the county for $18,301.07
  • Jury awarded full amount to plaintiff
  • County appeals to 4th Circuit contending error on the part of the judge citing the attempt to cancel the K
  • Does not dispute breach on the part of the county


Judgement reversed and remanded for new trial.


Availability of Harm

After the plaintiff had received notice they should have done nothing to further the damages and should have desisted from further work.

Luten should not have finished the bridge after receiving notice to cease construction


The expenses incurred $1900 before the county cancelled the contract was the sole responsibility of the county

  • Expenses incurred after the cancellation $18,300 were the fault of the bridge company, these expenses were self inflicted and avoidable.
  • If we give the non breacher expectation damages are they NOT going to be worse off
  • Waste of resources
  • Duty to Mitigate: You must avoid/mitigate losses
  • Damages post breach that could have been avoided are not the responsibility of the breacher

Some time after the case it was found out that Col. Mebane personally gave Luten Bridge $25,000 in liberty bonds to continue building the bridge

“The king of rockingham county and the original bridge to nowhere” Barak Richman Duke university faculty series

Liberty bond – war bond to support allied cause in WWI

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